limestone

Reluctant Desire: Mastering Charity

(More Desire, Oklahoma 8)

Erotic Romance, Contemporary, BDSM, Romantic Suspense, Small Town, MF, HEA

Charity Parrish was madly in love with her sexy as hell husband, Beau, and thought things couldn’t get any better between them.

But lately, Beau had begun to exhibit a need for a more.

So she did what her sister would do.

She provoked him.

His reaction had the desired effect, his shock and anger unleashing the Dominant inside him with a vengeance.

Beau knew Charity to be calm and logical, with a soft heart, and feared that the need to possess her in ways he hadn’t before would scare the hell out of her.

In his playroom at Belle Fleur, his estate in Louisiana, they began a journey that drew them closer than ever.

He needed her to look to him for strength.

She needed to be all to him.

They found it in each other, and an intimacy that carried far beyond the walls of the playroom.

Excerpt

He ran a hand through his hair and met her gaze, his hands light on her waist. “I’m sorry.”

Stiffening, Charity closed her hands on the edge of the table. “What are you apologizing for?”

Beau offered a small smile, one filled with tension and self-depreciation. “For being so…intense.” He looked down at the photo of her. “Just the thought of any other man seeing you like that drives me crazy. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Deflated, Charity slid from the table and walked around it, closing her laptop and shoving it into her bag. “You didn’t scare me, Beau. You aroused me.” Glancing at him, she picked up the picture she’d been so proud of and ripped it to shreds. “Evidently, you don’t think I’m woman enough to handle that darker side of you.”

After tossing the pieces of the photo into the trash can, she hooked her purse over her shoulder and grabbed the bag holding her laptop. “I’m not stupid, Beau, and I’m not as weak as you seem to believe. I wouldn’t marry you until I knew that your playfulness didn’t mean you took our relationship lightly. You’ve shown me that love can be playful. You showed me another side of myself and made it clear that you wanted all of me.”

Beau stepped closer, holding out a hand to her. “I do, my love. I love every part of you.”

Ignoring his outstretched hand, Charity forced a smile. “Meanwhile, you hide part of yourself.”

His eyes narrowed. “It’s not that I’m hiding a part of myself. We play, Charity. I told you how important I think it is to play.”

“There’s more.” Charity lifted her chin, her insides clenched so tightly it hurt. “I’ve seen it. I’ve tried to encourage it.”

His eyes narrowed. “You try to piss me off. You try to make me lose control.”

Charity smiled faintly, wishing she knew how to make him understand. “At times.”

Beau sighed, running his hand through his hair again. “Baby, it’s not something I want to subject you to. I’ve always liked to play, but since…you—hell.”

“Since me…what?”

Beau closed his hands over the top rung of the chair. “I want more. You’re right. It’s a dark part of me that I thought ended when I met you.”

He lifted his head, something dark and tormented in his eyes. “With you, I’ve learned that wanting is much more intense when it’s built on love. You’re mine. You wear my ring. You bear my name. It should be enough. It was enough.”

“But it’s not anymore?”

“I love you.” Shaking his head, he grimaced. “Hell, that used to sound so profound to me, but now it doesn’t come close to describing what I feel for you. I love to take you slowly and give you the tenderness I need to show you and that you deserve.”

His eyes glimmered with something so stark it took her breath away. “I love when we play. But there are times when I want more. I want primitive. Raw. I want to drive you insane with hunger and show you just how much I want you. How much I need you.I want you to feel that hunger.”

With a sigh, he clenched his hands so tightly on the back of the chair that his knuckles turned white. “The need to possess you, have complete control over you is so intense that I have to walk away. It’s not something you signed on for. It’s getting harder and harder to contain. But I’m scared of setting it free. If you saw that part of me, it would probably scare the hell out of you.”

Closing the distance between them, Charity lifted a hand to his chest. “Do you think I don’t see it? How can you be so blind? How can you not see how much that darker side of you excites me?”

Dropping her hand, she tugged her purse higher on her shoulder. “How can you expect me to settle for any less than all of you?”

“Charity, you have all of me.”

Dropping her hand, she shook her head sadly. “No, Beau. I don’t, and it’s creating distance between us. That’s what scares me.”

“There’s nothing to be scared of.”

“Well, I am. You’re already holding part of yourself back from me. Eventually, it’ll be more and more. I can’t live like this, Beau. You always say that I’m impatient. Maybe I am, but I feel like I’ve been patient for months, and you still pull away.”

In a move too fast to anticipate, Beau gripped the back of her neck and yanked her closer, his lips hovering over hers. “Charity—”

Charity waited, the feel of his warm breath against her lips, the look in his eyes unlike anything she’d ever seen before.

The intensity in his look both excited and scared her, a look she’d seen only glimpses of in the past but now appeared more frequently.

Recognizing it as a part of him, a dark hunger for more dying to break free, Charity realized how much of himself he’d kept hidden from her.

She held her breath as the look in his eyes sharpened even more, the hand at the back of her neck holding her close, her face lifted to his.

His eyes suddenly became shuttered, and releasing her, he stepped back. “I won’t keep you from your plans. I have things to do myself.”

Sucking in a breath at the pain his cool tone inflicted, Charity nodded, finding she had to swallow the lump in her throat before speaking. “I’m meeting Hope for lunch. I’ll see you later.”

She went outside, closing the door behind her before releasing the breath she’d been holding, feeling better now that everything was out in the open.

And the different ways it could play out really scared her.

Undercover Lover

(Erotically Yours 4)

Erotic Romance, BDSM, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, MF, HEA

Carly Smith had given up on ever finding a man who could fulfill the fantasies that her last boyfriend had found silly and unbecoming.

The sudden appearance of Rick Swan changed everything.

A man with fantasies of his own who took her into a world of play and erotic pleasure.

Unknown danger surrounded them, and when a man dressed in black rescued her, she found herself comparing him to Rick.

Rick was a computer geek who traveled to help those who needed him, his work highly classified.

Horrified that she’d been kidnapped, he taught her what she needed to know how to protect herself.

With Rick out of town for work, Carly once again found herself in danger, but this time she was ready.

She escaped the immediate danger, but found herself in the position of needing to be rescued once again.

The man in black appeared again, but this time removed his mask, revealing features she knew all too well.

Excerpt

Dressed all in black, Rick slipped out the back door, keeping to the shadows as he made his way around the house, listening to the other men bragging about their conquests.

Every house around him, except the one he’d been watching, had been dark for more than an hour.

Pushing thoughts of the sexy blonde out of his mind, he crossed the yard to the tree in the middle of the yard, noting the two agency cars parked down the street on either side.

Although the bright streetlights made it harder to stay in the shadows, he stayed low and moved silently across the street to the back of the gunrunners’ van.

Scanning the area, he drew a tracking device from his pocket and reached under the van to put it into place.

Once he finished, he started back across the street, making it to the tree just as the four men he had under surveillance poured out the front door.

Stiffening, he watched them stagger toward the blonde’s house next door, his chest tightening as several scenarios played out in his head.

Irritated at the thought that she might be involved with them in some way, he watched in disbelief as they stood in front of her flowerbed and unzipped their pants.

He didn’t find it hard to believe that Chenkoff’s men could be that stupid, but glancing up at the window, he stiffened again when he saw something that made no sense at first.

When he realized what it was, he stiffened again with the urge to turn her over his knee.

The low illumination reflecting onto her face told him that while they pissed on her flowers, she stood there videotaping them.

The gunrunners Chenkoff hired had already proven themselves to be stupid, but Chenkoff didn’t hire people for their brains.

He hired them because they were violent and were willing to kill or torture on his orders.

Rick couldn’t bear to think about what the four men would do if they caught the blonde videotaping them and held his breath as they finished and rezipped their pants, his hopes that they would continue on dashed when one of them looked up at the window.

“Hey! That fucking bitch is taping us!”

Rick barely bit back a groan when the sexy vixen threw open the front door and stormed out, her bare legs visible beneath the short robe.

“Yeah! I recorded you pissing on my flowers! Again! Don’t you have a bathroom over there?”

Rick had already tucked his earpiece away, covered the gun at his waistband with his sweater, and crossed to the sidewalk in front of her house by the time she’d finished, using the distraction to get closer to her.

“Give me that phone, you fucking bitch!”

One of the men leapt forward, but Rick was faster, pressing his leg against the back of the other man’s knees as he reached for the long-legged blonde standing on the top step.

Rick ignored the drunken man he’d knocked down, hiding a smile at the other man’s groan when he hit his face against the top step. “I warned you what would happen the next time I saw you with another man.”

The blonde blinked, her jaw dropping. “What?”

Before she could say something to put herself in even more danger, he covered her mouth with his, immediately deepening his kiss while remaining alert to the four gunrunners staring up at them.

Alert for a threat from Chenkoff’s men, Rick hadn’t anticipated the danger wrapped in his arms.

She met his kiss with resistance and then a passion he didn’t expect, her soft body pliable and warm against his.

The scent of her filled his senses, momentarily distracting him when he couldn’t afford to be distracted.

To punish her for making him lose his head, however briefly, and giving him the control he needed, he slid the hand hidden from view higher, using his thumb to caress her beaded nipple.

Her soft moan went straight to his cock, and irritated that the four men heard her soft moan of pleasure, he lifted his head, keeping her body between hers and theirs.

He turned her and slapped her ass. “Get inside. You and I have some things to discuss.”

She gasped but went inside, slamming the door behind her. “I’m calling the cops.”

Turning, he faced Chenkoff’s men, unsurprised when the one who appeared to be the leader pulled out a gun.

Pushing his straggling and dirty hair out of his face, the gunrunner pointed the gun at Rick’s chest. “Get out of my way. I want that phone.”

Rick smiled faintly at the thought of dealing with the other man in the near future, ready to pull his own gun. “Put that away before I shoot you with it. Don’t try my patience. I have a woman to deal with, and if you were smart, you’d go back to whatever rock you crawled out from. I want to deal with her before she has a chance to call the cops because then I’ll have to wait.”

He narrowed his gaze. “Waiting to discipline my woman pisses me off.”

The gunrunner blinked his surprise at Rick’s claim, and seemed to understand and respect Rick’s need to deal with his woman. The other man grinned, nodding in agreement. “I can understand that. Good luck, man. Smackin’ ’em around is the only way to deal with some of these broads. The only reason we pissed on her flowers is because she gave us shit the other day for throwing our trash out with hers.”

His smile fell, and tucking his gun away, he inclined his head toward the house. “Tell her if she calls the cops, we’ll rip her flowers out and give her a beatin’ she won’t forget.”

Hotel Desire

(Desire, Oklahoma 15)

Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Small Town, Menage, MFM, HEA

Ethan Sullivan and Brandon Weston always dreamed of sharing a woman, but a past relationship made them rethink their decision.

Until Nicole Dixon moves to Desire.

Ethan falls for her almost immediately, and when he sees the chemistry between Nikki and Brandon, he knows he’s found the woman they’ve both been looking for.

Not believing a menage relationship can work, Nikki fights her attraction to Brandon, but the chemistry between them won’t be denied.

Her accident raises the stakes, showing them just what she means to them.

Nikki hadn’t thought it possible to love two men at the same time, but with Brandon and Ethan, it proves inevitable.

Worried that it can’t last, she doesn’t want to admit, even to herself, that she’s fallen in love with both of them.

But facing death, she can’t hold back any longer.

Excerpt

Nikki watched Brandon go, fighting to hide her disappointment.

She’d enjoyed talking to Brandon.

She’d enjoyed his presence in a way she hadn’t expected to.

Besides the fact that he was drop-dead gorgeous, the chemistry between them kept her off-kilter.

She turned to Ethan, curious to see that he also watched Brandon’s exit. “Is something wrong?”

Turning his attention back to her, Ethan smiled and reached for her hand. “No.” He kissed her fingers and gestured toward the approaching waiter. “Gabriel is bringing the dessert cart. I can’t wait to find another of your weaknesses.”

Nikki blinked, her stomach fluttering at his playful smile. “Another one? What kind of weakness do you think you’ve found?”

Ethan smiled again, his eyes twinkling. “Choose your dessert.”

She eyed the cart, her mouth watering. “It all looks so good.”

The chocolate cake and mousse drew her attention, but she determinedly looked away. Crème brulee. Cheesecake. Cannoli. Strawberry shortcake. Carrot cake. They all drew her attention, but she settled on a slice of layered coconut cake, something she hadn’t had in a long time.

Ethan smiled. “Good. It’s from the local bakery. It’s occasionally served at the diner.”

“Good to know.” Aware of his interest, Nikki took a bite of her coconut cake, moaning at the burst of flavor as the cake nearly melted in her mouth. “Good Lord. This is incredible. Aren’t you having dessert?”

Ethan’s lips twitched. “I prefer my sweets in another form.”

A warm rush flowed through her at the meaningful look in his eyes as his gaze raked over her. “You’re a flirt, but I think it’s only fair to tell you that I have no interest in becoming involved with anyone.”

His eyes narrowed slightly and glimmered with something darkly erotic. “And I think it’s only fair to tell you that I plan to change your mind.”

Nikki’s breath caught. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I do.” Ethan reached out to run his fingertip over the back of her hand. “We’re adults, Nicole. You’re not going to try to deny the chemistry between us, are you?”

With a shrug, Nikki scooped another bite of her cake. “Just because you make my stomach flutter doesn’t mean I should sleep with you.”

Grinning, he leaned closer. “I make your stomach flutter, huh? How about the rest?”

Enjoying their flirting, Nikki held the bite of cake to her mouth. “The rest of what? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Ethan’s eyes flared, the challenge in them unmistakable. “Let’s start with the fact that your breath hitched when I first touched you. Your nipples beaded when I spoke to you after Hope and Charity left.”

Surprised that he’d noticed, Nikki hid a smile as she ate another bite of cake. “The first was surprise, and the second was air-conditioning.”

His eyes narrowed on hers. “Interesting.”

“What’s interesting?”

“The fact that you’re daring me to show you.” He took her hand in his and leaned closer. “When I kissed you, you melted against me. You want me as much as I want you. I think that’s something worth exploring.”

Setting her fork aside, Nikki leaned toward him until they were close enough for her to see the flecks of gold in his green eyes. “I’m not in the habit of sleeping with men I barely know. We only met this afternoon.”

Ethan shrugged. “I just thought it fair to state my intentions.”

Nikki ran a tine of her fork along a strand of coconut, the butterflies in her stomach making her hesitant to try to eat more. “I guess we could see each other.”

He smiled again, a smile that held both promise and playfulness. “I’m going to hold you to that. There’s dancing in the lounge. Would you like to go?”

Sitting back, Nikki grinned. “I might as well go now. Once the diner reopens and I’m on my feet all day again, I won’t be doing a lot of dancing.”

“Then we should take advantage of it now.”

She walked through the lobby with him to a closed door with a man standing outside, who came to attention when he saw Ethan and rushed to open the door for him.

With an arm around her, Ethan guided her inside and to the dance floor. “I’ve been looking forward to holding you again all through dinner.”

Surprised to see Charity on the dance floor, held in the loving arms of her husband, Beau, Nikki scanned the lounge.

Intimate horseshoe-shaped booths took up three walls, while the band and bar took up the other.

The booths had high backs, effectively creating a barrier between them, creating an intimacy, heightened by the low lighting.

The large dance floor, bordered by built-in low lights, held several couples of all ages, who danced to the slow music the band played.

Ethan guided her to a deserted corner of the dance floor and took her into his arms, a warm hand at her back guiding her steps while holding her other hand enfolded in his. “I want you.”

Dakota Dawn

(Dakota Heat 7)

Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Menage, Cowboys, MFM, HEA

Dawn Hopkins has been beaten by her husband for the last time. She waits for him to go to work and sets her plan in motion.

She hadn’t planned to run into one of her husband’s employers, Ben Parson. Her attraction to him and his brother, Gabe, and the feeling of safety whenever they are near, along with their anger at her bruises, leaves her more than a little unsettled and anxious to get out of town.

Before she can leave, her husband collapses and is rushed to the hospital. With a small son to raise, Ben and Gabe became her anchors. Even more so when her husband commits suicide, almost taking her son with him.

Patiently showing her that they can be counted on, they protect her from danger, and slowly, steadily convince her of their love.

Excerpt

Gabe Parson stepped into the grocery store in town, automatically searching for any sign of Dawn Hopkins.

She was married to one of his ranch hands, and he had no business lusting after her, but he couldn’t help it.

Both he and his older brother, Ben, had felt the chemistry with her at their first meeting, and no amount of bedding other women or avoiding her lessened his hunger for her.

In fact, it made it worse, especially since she was married to a drunk who felt it was his right to take his failures in life out on his petite wife.

Ignoring the attention he drew, he made his way past the register and to the office counter, disappointed that he didn’t see Dawn.

He and Ben, were used to drawing attention, their size and the fact that they owned the third largest ranch in South Dakota seemed to interest people, and they’d long ago learned to ignore it or use it to their advantage, whichever happened to suit the situation.

The manager, Sally Johnson, came forward with a frown. “She left about ten minutes ago. Bought a gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs. She also bought another bottle of ibuprofen.”

Gabe clenched his jaw. “Any new bruises?”

Sally snorted. “She wears long sleeves year ’round, so my guess is that she always has bruises. Had that worn jacket on and was shiverin’ like crazy. It’s too damned cold out for that poor excuse for a coat. As usual, she had a smile for everyone, despite the fact that her lip was split.”

Fisting a hand on the counter, Gabe inclined his head. “I’ll take care of it. What do we owe you?”

Sally gave him a figure and, while he counted out bills, leaned forward. “And how are you doin’? I saw you at the dance with Brenda Swanson Saturday night. She was eatin’ you up with her eyes.”

Gabe allowed a small smile as he handed the money to her, while inside a familiar frustration ate at him that he hadn’t gotten to Dawn first. “She’s a nice woman.”

Sally stuck the money into the register and handed him a receipt. “Judging by the dress she wore, she wasn’t goin’ for nice.”

Another one of the locals approached the counter, a widower who’d been hitting on Sally for almost a year. “Hey, Sally.”

Sally blushed and straightened. “Hey, Henry. How’s it goin’?”

“Pretty good. Hey, Gabe. How are you? How’s your brother?”

Gabe tucked the receipt away and offered a smile as he turned. “We’re both good. You?”

“I’m fine, thanks.” He glanced at Sally before holding out a hand toward Gabe. “I was over at the sports store to buy myself a new reel for my fishing pole. Surprised to see Dawn Hopkins there. She was so cold she was shivering. Limping, too.”

Gabe stiffened, unsurprised that Henry would know the information would interest him and furious at what he was learning.

Everybody around town knew that he and Ben looked out for her.

With a shrug, Gabe narrowed his gaze. “Probably buying something for John.”

She doted on her son and appeared to do her best to protect him from the truth about his father.

Henry frowned. “I don’t think so. She bought a baseball bat. Nothing else. No glove. No baseball. As far as I know, John doesn’t play baseball and the middle of fall seems like a strange time to be buying a boy in South Dakota a baseball bat to play with.”

Sally smiled, but Gabe couldn’t miss the concern in her eyes. “Good for her. It’s about time she decided to fight back.”

Gabe grimaced. “She’s fought back before. I’ve seen the bruises on Jeff. It sounds like she’s upping her game.”

Henry grimaced. “Hell, I don’t like the sound of that. He’ll kill her for sure.”

Gabe hid the rage and fear inside him. “No. He won’t.”

He made the ride back to the ranch in record time, the tires of his pickup squealing as he turned onto the long driveway.

He brought the truck to a halt and jumped out, slamming the door behind him.

Ranch hands scattered to get out of his way as he strode across the yard to Jeff Hopkins, his fists clenched at his sides.

Backing up until he pressed against the post and rail fence, Jeff loosened his hands at his sides in an apparent attempt to appear unafraid. “Mr. Parson? What’s wrong?”

Gabe didn’t stop until he stood toe-to-toe with Jeff and bent to get in his face. Keeping his voice low, he let his rage show. “If I see your wife with another bruise, I’ll tear you apart. Understood?”

Jeff swallowed heavily but lifted his chin in defiance. “I don’t know—”

“Don’t tell me you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.” Gabe wanted nothing more than to grab the other man by the throat but didn’t trust himself not to beat Jeff to a bloody pulp. “If you do, or if you hurt her again, I’m gonna show you what it feels like to be beaten by someone larger and a hell of a lot stronger than you.”

Straightening, he took a step back. “The only reason you still have a job here is because I don’t want to take away your ability to provide for them, but if she’s ever looking for a place to stay, I’m gonna make sure she has one, and then you’re gone.”

Jeff glanced around, puffing his chest out when he saw that, although the other men didn’t approach, they watched the scene play out. “My wife is none of your business.”

“If any man beats on a woman, I make it my business.”

Submission to Desire: For Their Love of Brenna

(More Desire, Oklahoma 7)

Contemporary, Menage, BDSM, MFM, HEA

Royce Harley and King Taylor loved their wife’s playfulness, especially in the playroom, but had begun to sense a desperation in her submission that worried them.

They realized her need to play was her way of reassuring herself that they wanted her and not the submissives that visited the club they ran.

Anxious to reassure her, they changed tactics, desperate to establish the intimacy the three of them so desperately needed.

The flood of emotions pouring from her had them falling in love with her all over again, their tenderness getting through to her when nothing else could.

Happier than ever, they didn’t realize that the biggest threat to Brenna didn’t come from the submissives, but from a Dominant with an axe to grind.

They’d taken his submissive from him, so he would take theirs.

And since they loved her, the pain he inflicted would be even worse.

Excerpt

Brenna Harley-Taylor looked up from her dinner, eyeing her two husbands, who both smiled back at her. “You know, sometimes I still have trouble believing that I’m married to both of you.”

Royce Harley could have made a fortune as a model, his lean muscular physique, shoulder-length curly black hair, and a face that appeared to have been carved by the gods themselves made him so good-looking that his loving smile still had the ability to make her heart beat faster.

King, on the other hand, had more masculine features and could chill with a glance.

He wore his dark blond hair short in a military-style cut and had a body covered with corded muscle.

Both stood much taller than her, were sexy as hell, and made her feel deliciously feminine.

Royce reached out to run his finger over the emerald stone attached to the collar she wore, one that matched the stones in her wedding band, his eyes dancing with amusement. “I would think you’d be well adjusted to that fact by now.”

King raised a brow, his lips curled. “It’s a lesson I don’t mind repeating. Does this have anything to do with the bag you brought home with you from the lingerie store?”

Smiling, Brenna slid a hand from the stone on her choker downward, following the material of her low-cut dress to the curve of her breast, amused and aroused that both Royce and King followed the movement with their eyes. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. Do you always have to know everything?”

King smiled faintly and took a sip of his beer. “Concerning you? Absolutely. So what’s our surprise?”

Smiling and already aroused at the thought of their reaction to her purchase, Brenna reached for her wine. “You surprise me all the time. This time, I want to surprise you.”

Sitting back, she slid her foot from her high-heeled shoe and ran her toes up King’s leg. “You’re going to be busy tomorrow and tomorrow night with the auction. I see how eager they are to get one or both of you for themselves.”

King frowned and reached down to caress her ankle. “You don’t really think we’re interested in anyone but you, do you?”

Brenna shrugged, hating that she couldn’t help but doubt her ability to hang on to two such amazing men. “I know how much you like variety. When you’re surrounded by all those naked women, I want you to remember that you have a wife upstairs who’s more than willing to satisfy those decadent hungers.”

Royce smiled, raising a dark brow. “Decadent hunger? Is that what you call it?”

His eyes glittered with amusement and heat, his long hair loose now, the curls touching his shoulders, but it would be tied back when he walked into the playroom.

Brenna smiled when King caught her foot and lifted it to his lap. Turning to him, she wiggled her toes. “What would you call it?”

Leaning closer, Royce ran a fingertip over the back of her hand and down to her wedding band. “I call it love and lust for my incredibly sexy wife, with whom I get plenty of variety.”

She pouted, aware that both of her husbands’ gazes settled on her bottom lip. “Do you still feel that way? Maybe you’re getting bored with me.”

King took her foot and pressed it against his erection. “Never. I knew we should have gotten a privacy booth.”

Royce shrugged. “They were booked. Besides, our little sub is too loud when she comes to take her here.”

King smiled and ran his hand up her leg, running his fingertips over her silk stocking and to the spot at the back of her knee that drove her crazy. “Even when we gag her. Do you want dessert, Red?”

Brenna giggled, her pussy clenching. “I don’t think what I have on under this dress is going to allow that.”

Royce sat forward, his eyes narrowed, the look of a Dominant. “What do you have on under there?”

Brenna smiled. “I know how much you like dressing me in black.”

King’s eyes narrowed. “You’re wearing black under that dress? Black what?”

She’d bought a leather corset with cutouts at her breasts, slit, and bottom, trimmed in the lace that matched the top of her stockings.

Unable to stop smiling, she pulled her leg from King’s grasp and straightened, reaching for her wine again. “A little leather. A little lace.”

Royce lifted his hand for the check, his eyes raking over her. “Your bag was from the lingerie shop.”

Brenna ran her fingertip over the rim of her glass. “I stuck the bag from Logan’s Leathers inside.”

King’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “We take you to Logan’s store ourselves.”

Amused, Brenna sipped her wine again. “You don’t have to worry about him measuring me. He has all of my measurements on file.”

Reaching out, she ran her fingertips up his arm. “Besides, the places you don’t want him to measure are cut out.”

A Dominant’s Love

(Rapture Island 5)

Contemporary, BDSM, MF, HEA

Jennifer Monroe feared her life would change when the chain of stores where she worked sold, but nothing could have prepared her for the change the new owner, David Shaw would bring to her life.

Intrigued by the prospect of running a small private island boutique, one that catered to Dominants and submissives, she argued against his objections and begged to go.

A one-day trip to Rapture Island with David changed everything, the passion of submitting to him teaching her things about herself she could never have imagined.

But the danger she hadn’t seen coming ruined everything, David’s rage and guilt at not protecting her destroying what they’d begun to build.

He watched over her, but couldn’t touch her, so she made the only assumption she could.

He no longer wanted her.

Leaving him, she headed home.

But David wasn’t about to let the woman he loved just walk away and would do whatever it took to win her back.

Excerpt

Jennifer straightened, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on edge.

Turning, she sucked in a breath, her heart beating nearly out of her chest.

Raw power.

Directly in front of her, not more than eight feet away, stood the handsomest and most riveting man she’d ever seen in her life.

The man standing in front of her was handsome as the devil himself, wearing an impeccable dark designer suit, a gleaming watch that had to have cost a fortune.

The aura of power and raw sexuality surrounding him stole her breath.

He watched her steadily, his gaze sharpening as it raked over her, his sharp gaze leaving a trail of heat and awareness in its wake.

Sophisticated with a primitive edge.

A dangerous combination.

He had to be several inches over six feet tall and had incredibly wide shoulders that she could see had nothing to do with padding, but it wasn’t his size that made him appear powerful.

The power came from his dark, glittering eyes.

They glimmered with intelligence and amusement, his lips twitching slightly as if knowing the effect he had on her.

Stepping aside, he gestured for her to precede him, her new boss apparently curious about how she would handle it.

A test.

Not about to show weakness, she lifted her chin and started past him, unnerved at the warm, tingling awareness that came over her at his closeness.

He watched her as she passed, his eyes sharp as if once again knowing his effect on her.

Determined to ignore him, she hurried her steps, alarmed when he walked beside her. “Nice catch.”

Jennifer swallowed again. “Thank you.”

“Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is David Shaw.”

Jennifer continued toward the elevator. “I know.”

David Shaw owned Shaw Enterprises, a conglomerate comprised of everything from shoes to software.

He dated heiresses and movie stars, but he never seemed to stay with a woman for more than a few dates, leaving tabloids continuously speculating about his love life.

And of course, her new boss would have to arrive just as she found herself dealing with an employee stealing from the store he’d just purchased.

He followed her into the elevator, his silence ominous.

Feeling his gaze, she glanced at him before staring straight ahead again. “Would you mind if I handle this before our meeting?”

“I insist.”

The low silkiness in his voice sent a wave of heat through her, her hormones getting the best of her as she imagined him speaking in the darkness to a lover.

The elevator felt smaller than usual, the awareness encompassing every inch of her body making it nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand.

“Have I done something to offend you?”

Jennifer stared at the numbers above, wondering why she’d never noticed that it took so long to go up one floor. “No. Of course not.”

The door opened, and she hurried out, heading down the hallway to her office. Sharing a look with her assistant, she ignored her Elise’s look of shock and then appreciation when her gaze went to David Shaw.

“Elise, Karen Scott was working the makeup counter and slipped her friend a ninety-dollar lipstick. She’s on her way up. Security has her friend and will be bringing her up, as well. Get the police here. I want to press charges and ban both of them from the store. Arrange for Karen’s paycheck to be sent to her.”

Intensely aware of her new boss’ presence, Jennifer paused. “This is Mr. Shaw. Mr. Shaw, Elise Mosley, my assistant. We’ll be in my office.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Once in her office, Jennifer moved away from the door, watching as Mr. Shaw came in and closed the door behind him. Clasping her hands in front of her, she watched David Shaw walk around her small, windowless office, grimacing as he scanned his surroundings.

“Do you like working here?”

Jennifer swallowed heavily. “Yes.”

Hooking a thigh over the corner of her desk, David studied her features. “You’ve been working for Lumiere a long time. You started while you were still in high school and managed to earn a degree while working full time here.”

Jennifer smiled. “It was worth it.”

His dark brow went up again. “The only picture on your desk is of your parents. I take it this job has cost you when it comes to your social life.”

“My social life is none of your business.”

His lips twitched again, and he slowly rose to his feet, her small office making it impossible to move away without appearing afraid. “I read the reports on Lumiere’s managers. You intrigue me.”

Jennifer blinked, surprised at that. “I do? Why?”

“I’m not quite sure.” His lips twisted as if the admission irritated him. “I thought if I met you, I would understand you better, but meeting you has only left me more curious about you.”

“Do you usually begin your interviews this way?”

His eyes narrowed, his gaze speculative. “Not until now.”

Running a damp hand down her thigh, she shrugged and moved to the small refrigerator on the other side of her office. “There’s nothing mysterious about me.”

She reached in for a bottle of water, silently offering it to him.

He waved a hand, refusing it. “Hmm. We’ll see. Have you started looking for another job yet?”

Opening the bottle, she took a small sip before answering, her stomach muscles tightening painfully at the suspicion that she was about to be fired. “Yes. When I found out about the sale, I started sending out my resume. I’ve got several interviews scheduled already.”

His expression softened. “Before you accept another offer, I’d like to present my own. Over dinner.”

She took another sip of her water before recapping it, struggling to hide her surprise. “I heard from the other managers. Everyone’s scared of losing their jobs.”

David’s lips twisted. “They should be. I’ll pick you up at seven thirty.”

Second Chance at Desire

(Desire, Oklahoma 14)

Menage Everlasting: Contemporary, Menage, Romantic Suspense, Small Town, M/F/M/M, HEA

Dispatcher, Talia Armstrong wanted Marshall, Joe and Carter Garrison almost as soon as they started working as deputies in Desire, but they’d spent months avoiding her, the guilt of their past preventing them from searching for happiness.

She liked them.

They were sexy as hell.

And she was tired of being alone.

She’s counted on passion, but not the intimacy.

When the stalker from her past returned, she brushed it off, but soon found she was fighting for her life.

The threat came from her lovers’ past, a past that left them filled with a guilt they didn’t deserve.

Loving them, she couldn’t handle being another unwanted responsibility.

Knowing her fears, they vowed to be patient.

No longer feeling guilty, they felt nothing but rage for the woman who’d cost them so much, and love and fear for the woman who’d brought happiness into their lives.

And love for her and the child she carried.

Excerpt

Marshall parked and got out, the music coming from inside the bar and the number of cars parked outside reminding him that it was ladies’ night.

He walked through the front door, finding the place as crowded as he’d expected and, to his shock, the woman he couldn’t stop thinking about.

Wearing a light blue dress and a pair of cowboy boots, with her long hair loose, she drew him like a beacon.

Stiffening at the sight of the man lowering himself onto the bar stool next to her, Marshall started forward, his stomach tightening with anger.

John Dalton, one of the owners of the bar, approached her with what appeared to be a glass of whiskey, his lips twitching when he saw Marshall. He set the glass in front of her, looking slightly relieved. “Hello, Marshall. Beer?”

Inclining his head, Marshall moved to stand behind the man sitting next to Talia. “You’re in my seat. Beat it.”

The other man, one he didn’t recognize, stiffened and turned to look up at Marshall over his shoulder, his features tight with anger.

One look at Marshall seemed to change his mind, the anger being replaced with deference.

Grabbing his hat, he slid from the stool without a word and went to join the crowd.

Looking around with fresh eyes, Marshall saw that Talia had gained the attention of several men in the bar, attention she didn’t appear to notice as she sat watching John, Michael, and one of their newest bartenders fixing drinks.

The wave of possessiveness staggered him, the idea of another man touching her filling him with a jealousy and anger he had no right to feel.

Pushing it aside, he lowered himself to the bar stool next to her, pleased that it put him in the position of being between her and everyone else.

John slid a mug of beer down the bar to him. “How’s it going, Marshall?”

Marshall set his hat on the bar and glanced at Talia, irritated that, after all the times she’d flirted with him, she wouldn’t look at him. “That remains to be seen.” Eyeing the shot of whiskey and mug of beer in front of Talia, Marshall leaned toward her, speaking just loud enough to be heard over the music. “Who’s your friend?”

Talia shrugged and took a sip of her beer, staring straight ahead. “He said his name was Bob. When you were a U.S. Marshal, did they call you Marshal Marshall?”

“Cute. No. Not if they wanted to keep their teeth.” Looking up, he met John’s gaze. “How many shots has she had?”

Talia reached for a pretzel. “None of your business.”

John smiled and refilled the pretzel and peanut bowls. “That’s her second.” Raising his voice to be heard over the music and conversation, he smiled at Marshall. “She walked here so she won’t be driving drunk. I think almost every man in here has had a turn on that stool tonight offering to give her a ride home.”

Talia tossed back her whiskey with barely a grimace, pushing the glass forward in a silent request for a refill before reaching for another pretzel. “Jeez, John. Why don’t you tell him my life story?”

John glanced at the glass with a frown. “Just telling Marshall that he doesn’t have to worry about you driving drunk. You’re sure in a mood tonight, aren’t you?”

Talia finished her pretzel and wrapped her hand around the handle of her beer mug. “I’m fine, John. It’s Friday night. The drinks are cheap, and I can sleep in tomorrow morning.”

Closing her eyes, she blew out a breath. “Shit. No, I can’t.”

Marshall reached for a handful of peanuts. “Problem?”

She glanced at her watch and took another sip of beer, meeting John’s gaze and gesturing toward her shot glass. “No. John, can I have one more?”

Marshall’s palms itched to connect with her well-rounded ass, a phenomenon that had never happened with Emily. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”

Her lips twitched as she reached for another pretzel. “If I thought that, I wouldn’t have ordered another.”

He reached for a couple of the pretzels, inadvertently brushing his hand against hers. “Any particular reason you felt the need to drink tonight?”

She yanked her hand back, proof that she’d felt the jolt of awareness as strongly as he had. She took another sip of beer and smiled her thanks when John came over to refill her glass again. “If I felt the need to drink, I wouldn’t be here. I just wanted a distraction.”

“Oh?” He couldn’t help but wonder if her conversations with Joe and Carter had anything to do with her mood. “Want to talk about it?”

Talia tossed back her whiskey and finished her beer. “No.” Sliding from the stool, she reached into her pocket. “Hold on to your hat, Deputy. As soon as I leave, the women who’ve been watching you ever since you came through the door are gonna be all over you.”

Reaching out, he wrapped a hand around her forearm, unable to resist touching her again. “I’ve got your tab.”

Tossing bills on the bar, Talia laughed and jerked away from him. “No thanks. Men only buy drinks for women if they’re expecting something in return. You’ve already made it clear that you don’t want anything from me. Happy hunting.”

Stunned that the woman who’d flirted shamelessly with him for the last several months would walk away from him without a backward glance, Marshall cursed at the realization that he and his brothers’ distance had already hurt her. Getting to his feet, he threw several more bills on the bar.

John approached, raising a brow. “You going after her?”

“Damned right I’m going after her.”

John inclined his head and smiled. “It’s about damned time.”

Night Visions

(Night 4)

Menage Everlasting: Contemporary Menage a Trois Paranormal Romantic Suspense Romance, MFM, HEA

Serena Abbott had promised to marry Ian and Alastair Wyndham, who not only accepted her psychic abilities, but could help her deal with the darkness that came with them.

Her own screams woke her when she dreamed of murders, but the vision of one of her lovers betraying her with another woman proved more than she could bear.

Alarmed and fearing for peace of mind, Ian and Alastair Wyndham fought to push away the lingering horror while Ian struggled with her belief that he would betray her.

Hurt at her mistrust, Ian tried to convince her that her vision was wrong, but with a serial killer on the loose, one who targeted women who looked like Serena, he knew that he’d just have to let her see the truth for herself.

When the vision played out in front of her, she found herself at the mercy of the killer, her connection to Ian the only thing that could save her.

Excerpt

Ian holed himself up in his office for the rest of the afternoon and evening, avoiding both Alastair and Serena.

In his present mood, he thought it best to stay away from Serena, the urge to bend her over and take her from behind again, to brand her as his, far too tempting for his peace of mind.

Grateful for the vision that brought her to them, Ian scraped a hand through his hair and went to the window, staring out into the darkness.

He loved her.

Just the thought of it scared the hell out of him, but he was realistic enough to know that he wouldn’t have changed that fact even if he’d wanted to.

His possessiveness grew by the day, but her easy acceptance that their relationship wouldn’t last heightened it to the point that he wanted to imprint himself on her in a way she would never forget.

Jealous of Alastair’s ease with her, Ian went to the small bar between the bookshelves and poured himself a straight whiskey.

Alastair had made the discovery that he could shield her from the thoughts of others, allowing her to be out in public for the first time in years.

It had taken a lot of practice and nerve-wracking frustration, but Ian had finally been able to shield her from the thoughts of others.

Over time, he did it with more ease, but it annoyed him that Alastair was better at it.

Serena, however, had grown stronger and rarely needed them to block her anymore.

I don’t need you, Ian.

She could protect herself from the thoughts of others now.

I don’t need you, Ian.

She’d needed him, however, when her dreams had become dangerous, but it appeared that her mind had found a way to protect her by placing her in the position of the murderer instead of the victim.

Ian smiled to himself. He was the first to be able to get into her dreams—her visions—her nightmares.

He still didn’t understand how he’d known how to get to her, but when he’d realized that she was having one of her nightmares and that she couldn’t breathe, he’d tried to shake her awake, but she’d been too caught up in her nightmare.

Her vision.

Somehow he’d entered her dream and yanked her out, stunned by the horror of what he’d witnessed.

It left him furious to know that she’d been subjected to that kind of vision over and over.

In her last vision, she saw through the murderer’s eyes and felt the evil the murderer felt.

He didn’t know which was worse.

Her abilities continued to grow, and her belief in what she saw was absolute.

But he’d be damned if he’d let her belief in her visions keep him out of her life.

He didn’t turn when the door to his office opened, already knowing that his brother wanted to talk to him. “Where’s Serena?”

“She’s in the guest house painting again.” He eyed the glass Ian raised to his lips. “She’s really shaken.”

Ian sighed and turned. “I know that.”

Alastair raised a brow, clearly furious. “Do you? She’s in the head of that fucking demon, and it’s draining her.”

“Shit.” Ian scraped a hand through his hair and started past his brother. “She needs to cut her loose.”

Alastair caught his arm. “She won’t. She’s taking notes about everything she sees and painting it in the hopes that it’ll help the FBI catch her.”

Ian turned to face his brother. “It’s not worth it. Serena’s a strong woman but sensitive as hell. Too sensitive. What she saw is going to cause a lot of damage. She’s going to see it over and over.”

The thought of it made him sick to his stomach. “She’s going to relive it over and over. She needs to block it. If she won’t, I’ll do it for her.” He eyed his brother. “I’m surprised you haven’t done it.” He took another sip of his drink and shrugged. “You’re a hell of a lot better at it than I am. You seem to have a connection with her that I don’t.”

“Jesus, the two of you are so fucking hardheaded.” Shaking his head, Alastair grimaced. “She needs to do this, Ian. She needs to prove to herself that she can handle her gift. We need to let her. She feels threatened if she doesn’t have control, and when we take that control away from her, it brings back that feeling of helplessness she’s fought so hard to throw off.”

Ian cursed and turned back toward his desk. “So we just sit here and watch her destroy herself? We watch her live through things that are going to give her nightmares for God knows how long?”

Alastair swirled the glass of wine he held, a glass Ian hadn’t noticed. “Yes. The best we can do is help in any way we can to find this killer as soon as possible.” He took a healthy sip of his wine, grimacing as he stared down into his glass. “And to be there to help her deal with the nightmares that are sure to come.”

Raw Desire: Alison’s Awakening

(More Desire, Oklahoma 6)

Contemporary Menage a Trois Romance, MFM, HEA

Married to Dillon Tanner and Ryder Hayes, Alison found a love and happiness she’d never expected to find.

But found she couldn’t completely trust.

Her unplanned pregnancy brought all of the insecurities from her past relationship back to the surface with a vengeance and she found herself watching and waiting for her husbands to realize they no longer wanted her.

Dillon and Ryder were delighted to find out Alison carried their child, and struggled to give her the reassurance she needed.

As her body swelled with their child, they found themselves even more enthralled with her and adjusting mentally for the responsibility of a growing family.

When a threat from the past reappeared, the sense of protectiveness sharply intensified, overriding everything else.

She and the child she carried belonged to them—and they would do whatever it took to keep them.

Excerpt

Marshall Garrison, one of Desire’s new deputies, squealed tires as he came to an abrupt stop on the side of the street. He jumped out and rushed toward them, moving fast for such a big man. “What the hell? Jesus! How bad is it?”

Alison breathed deeply, fighting off the nausea caused by the pain in her hip and upper arm. “I just got a little dizzy. I’m fine.”

“Sure you are.” Marshall frowned down at her, the furious glint in his eyes sending a chill through her. “Did you call—never mind. They’re here.”

Dillon shoved his way through to her, his expression wild. “Ally? Baby, everything’ll be okay. Thanks, Rio. Give her to me.”

The anguish in his tone made her smile. “I’m fine. Just a little sore.” The pain had begun to get worse. “Please put me down. My hip and arm hurt.”

Holding her against his chest, Dillon studied her features, his own grim and pale. “Hang on, baby.”

“I’m fine. Please put me down. I’m starting to hurt, and you’re moving so fast that it’s making me sick again. My arm and my hip feel like they’re on fire.”

“Throw up if you have to, but we’ve gotta move.” Dillon strode back the way she’d come. “We’re gonna get you to Doc Hansen’s. He’s waiting for us.”

Alison pushed against Dillon’s chest. “Everyone’s staring. Put me down.”

Marshall followed them, opening the back door of the pickup as he disconnected his call. “Ambulance will meet you at Doc Hansen’s office.”

Grimacing, Dillon nodded and got into the back seat with her, cursing when she cried out in pain. “Thanks, Marshall. Did you get him?”

“He’s already in cuffs. I’m staying with you.”

Seeing Rio again, Alison gasped in horror when she saw that his T-shirt was drenched in blood. Fighting dizziness, she tried to lift her arm to point toward him, but it proved impossible. “Why are you worrying about me? Dear God! Rio’s been shot!”

Dillon ripped off his T-shirt and pressed it against her hip while Ryder, his eyes filled with fear and rage, tied a towel around her upper arm. “Rio hasn’t been shot. That’s your blood, baby. You’re the one who’s been shot. We’ve got you. I need you to calm down.”

Ignoring the pain in her arm, she focused on her hip, the one that had been broken when she’d fallen down the stairs. “The baby!”

Dillon kissed her forehead, holding his T-shirt to her hip. “Everything’s gonna be fine.” His voice, raw with agony, rumbled in his chest. “I need you to calm down. We don’t want you going into labor until it’s time. Lie still. I’m trying to slow the bleeding.”

The baby had stopped moving, which scared the hell out of her. Fighting not to panic, she forced herself to breathe as slowly and evenly as she could, flattening her hands on her abdomen and willing her baby to move.

A sob escaped. “The baby was moving before. He stopped. Oh God! What have I done?”

Ryder roared down the street, following closely behind Marshall, who used his lights and siren for the short journey. “Just calm down, baby. Everything’s gonna be fine. You didn’t do anything.”

“I yelled at him and told him to go to hell.” She sucked in a breath at the combination of pain and the fear in Ryder’s eyes and whipped her head around to see the same fear and rage in Dillon’s. Leaning forward, she touched her lips to his jaw. “You’re scared. I’ll be okay.”

Holding his T-shirt to her hip, Dillon pressed his lips to her forehead. “I know you will. Ryder and I won’t let anything happen to you or the baby.”

Struggling to hide her pain and her own fears, she leaned into him, growing weaker by the minute. “I know. This baby’s too important to all of us. With you and Ryder with us, we can get through…”

Her head began spinning, and darkness closed in.

Dillon stiffened when her voice trailed off and she slumped again him. “Fuck! Ally? Ally!”

Panicked when he saw that she’d passed out, he held on to her for dear life as they pulled into the doctor’s parking lot behind Marshall. He met Ryder’s terrified gaze. “She passed out!”

Marshall opened the door and stood aside, his eyes going wide when he saw that Alison had lost consciousness. His hard features hardened even more. “She’ll be all right. Let’s get her inside.”

Dakota Sunrise

(Dakota Heat 6)

Contemporary Menage a Trois Cowboys Romance, MFM, minor spanking, HEA

A victim of abuse at the hands of her husband, Deanna Olson suddenly had a way out.

Once at the ranch in North Dakota, she learned that her uncle had not only sold the ranch to them, but had also given them control of the money he’d left her.

She hated being dependent on them and learning that her ex-husband headed toward them, she planned her escape.

Sam Taylor and Carson Wells had no intention of letting her leave.

They’d heard her uncle’s suspicions about her abuse, but seeing it enraged them and they vowed to not only protect her, but keep her and her daughter at the ranch where they belonged.

Falling in love with her was easy, but teaching her to trust in that love proved difficult, especially when she’d known only the pain from a man who still posed a threat.

A threat Sam and Carson wanted very much to meet head-on.

Excerpt

She played the names over and over in her mind, suddenly remembering. “Yes. My uncle told me about both of you.”

You can trust Sam and Carson, Deanna.

Okay, Uncle Don.

I mean it.

I know that, but when would I ever see them? When would I need to trust them?

Who knows? But I want you to promise me that when the time comes, you’ll trust them. Both of them. They’ll do the right thing by you.

I don’t understand. Trust them with what?

Everything, and you’ll understand when the time comes. Promise me, Deanna.

I promise.

“Good. Are you ready?”

Deanna blinked. “Ready for what?”

“To leave Mississippi. Your home’s in North Dakota now.”

Glancing down at Casey and unsurprised at how intently her daughter watched Sam and Carson, Deanna sighed. “I don’t know what you’re doing here. I was going to take a bus to the ranch. I missed his funeral. I’m sorry. I didn’t find out until this morning.”

Sam glanced at Carson. “We figured that. When I called to tell you about your uncle, he answered and wouldn’t put you on the phone.”

Carson spoke for the first time. “So we came to get you.”

“How did you know where to find me?”

His eyes narrowed as if daring her to argue about it. “Stopped by the house.” He glanced at Casey. “Lots of flashing lights. Apparently the police you talked to here went out there. Once we explained things, one of them told us where to find you.”

He took a step closer and crouched in front of Casey. “Hey, Lil’ bit. You ready to go for a ride?”

Casey backed up, pressing against Deanna’s legs. “No. I stay wif Mommy.”

Carson’s tender smile transformed his features from hard and cold to breathtaking affection. “I would never take a little girl away from her mommy. Your mommy’s coming with us.”

Casey hugged her bear tighter and straightened. “Where we goin’?”

Surprised that Casey spoke to him and had actually moved closer, Deanna slid a hand over her daughter’s hair. “We’re going to a ranch, sweet pea.”

“What’s a ranch?”

Carson gave Casey another smile that made Deanna’s pulse trip. “It’s a big place with lots of land and horses. It’s getting ready to snow there, so we’d better get moving.”

“Snow?” Casey turned to look up with wide eyes at Deanna, inadvertently gripping her hand below the cast. “Mommy! I wanna see snow!”

Unable to hold back a gasp, Deanna gently worked her daughter’s fingers from hers. “We will, sweetie.”

Sam stepped forward abruptly, holding her forearm over her sling, his eyes dark with concern. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Carson got to his feet, giving another smile to Casey, his own gaze concerned. “We have to be careful with Mommy.”

Nodding, Casey gently touched Deanna’s cast. “Mommy has a boo-boo. The doctor took a picture and then put a bandage on it. The nurse gave me a wowipop.”

Carson chuckled. “A grape one.”

Casey’s eyes went wide again. “How did you know? Are you magic?”

“I have my moments.” Carson turned to Deanna. “You look like you’re in pain. Didn’t they give you any painkillers?”

Deanna forced a smile, exhaustion making her legs shake. “The doctor gave me a prescription, but I didn’t want to take anything.”

Sam scowled, his expression making him appear even more intimidating. “Why the h—” He glanced at Casey. “Why not?”

“Because I’d planned to spend the night in a bus station and then on a bus filled with strangers. I have a four-year-old to look after, and I’d rather stay alert.”

Sam inclined his head. “Understandable, but that issue no longer applies. Where’s your prescription? In here?”

Deanna nodded, frowning when he took the plastic bag containing her hospital paperwork and a copy of the police report she’d made. “Yes. I’ll—”

Carson shook his head as Sam rummaged through the small bag and turned away. “You and Lil’ bit can come with me. We’ll get you settled in the truck while Sam gets your prescription.”

Remembering her uncle’s words and trusting her own instincts, Deanna nodded again and reached for Casey’s hand. “Thank you, but I don’t understand why you’re here.”

Carson shot her an angry look as he crouched in front of Casey. “We came for you. After Sam called, we waited for you to call or show up. When you didn’t, we got worried and decided to come get you ourselves.”

Almost on eye level with Casey, Carson gave her another affectionate smile. “Would it be all right if I carry you?”

Prepared for her daughter’s rejection and fear, Deanna placed a hand on Casey’s shoulder. “I don’t think—”

To Deanna stunned amazement, Casey nodded and stepped toward him. “Pookey Bear, too?”

Carson’s smile widened. “Pookey Bear, too.”

Casey lifted one arm, holding on to her stuffed bear with the other. “You won’t drop me?”

Carson picked her up, holding her securely with one arm while placing the other against Deanna’s back, silently urging her forward. “Not a chance. You’re safe with me.”

As they walked out and crossed the parking lot, Deanna leaned closer, keeping her voice low. “You handled her perfectly. If you’d reached out to pick her up, you would have scared her. How did you know not to do that?”

Carson scanned the parking lot as they crossed it. “I know skittish when I see it. You’re both skittish, but after what I’ve seen and heard, I understand why.”

Remembering suddenly, Deanna paused. “Everything’s in Jimmy’s car.”

“Where is it?”

By the time they got their things from Jimmy’s car, along with Casey’s car seat, Sam had rejoined them.

Once they’d settled in the truck, Sam turned from the driver’s seat. “Before you take a pain pill, they want you to eat something. Where’s a good place to eat around here?”