*** An explosive new standalone from the author of the Mob Boss series ***
FBI agent Braden Kane has been gong it alone ever since a family scandal sent him running straight from the Ivy League into Special Forces. That’s where he learned the hardest lesson of all — we’re all alone in the end. And nobody can save us.
When a raid goes terribly wrong, walking out is almost instinctual. Following the rules is for suckers. There’s only one way to get things done, and that’s to do it off the books. By the time he walks out, he knows there’s only one thing he’ll miss.
Nora Murphy never really had a choice. Law enforcement was in her blood.
Raised by an old-school Irishman in a houseful of brothers, she learned early on there was only one way to survive.
Be stronger. Be smarter. Be better.
There was no time for romance. And certainly no time for love. Which made tabling her attraction to friend and fellow agent Braden Kane a no-brainer. But Braden’s defection from the FBI opens the door to their relationship in a new and surprising way. Nora’s still getting her head around the possibilities when she’s assigned an important case involving a string of high-profile crimes with a shocking purpose. She can’t wait to bring down the ring of brash vigilantes — until a connection to Braden reveals itself in the investigation.
Now they’re on opposite sides of the law and order coin. Will their love be enough to bridge the gap? Will they survive long enough to find out?
They passed through the light and into the darkness near the water, then turned toward Manhattan Beach. She squealed a little when the water rushed up over her feet.
The sound of her laughter was somehow both childish and sexy. “Cold?”
She looked up at him with a smile and her expression was transformed. Maybe it was just the water, the visceral shock of the cold, but her face looked naked, the mask she wore at work folded up and set aside.
“Aren’t you going to take off your shoes?” she asked.
He lifted his hand, holding her heels. “Then I won’t be able to hold your hand.”
She laughed. “I can carry my own shoes!”
“I’m good,” he said.
“Don’t you want to put your feet in?” she asked.
He looked down at her, his smile spreading all the way from his heart up to his lips. “Truthfully?”
“I’d rather hold your hand.” He hesitated, holding her gaze as years of unspoken feelings fought to make themselves known. “I think I’ve been waiting years to hold your hand.”
“I’ve been waiting, too.”
He dropped her shoes in the sand and lifted his hands to her face. There was a distant voice urging him to be careful. To take it slow. To wait and see what came of his meeting in La Jolla tomorrow.
But that voice was no match for the one telling him he was finally home.
“Nora…” He slipped his hands into the hair at the back of her head, savored the feel of the silken strands against his fingers. “Do you know what it’s like to be so close to something so beautiful and have to pretend its nothing?”
She swallowed, licked her lips. “Yes,” she said. “I do.”
There was a split second when time seemed to stand still. The waves were silent, the wind still. There was only her. Only her face in his hands, her eyes a pool of blue fire, her lips full and parted. Waiting.
Then his mouth was on hers, his lips sinking into the pillowy softness of her. He held still at first, wanting to remember the arch of her neck in his hands, the exhale of her breath breathing life into his long-dead soul. A moment later she opened to him and there was no room for coherent thought. There was only the exploration of her satiny mouth as her tongue parried with his, every moment a burst of new sensation.
Not because he hadn’t been with many women. On the contrary; he’d kissed more women than he could count.
But not like this. Never like this.
His body flooded with desire so powerful it swarmed his mind like a shot of pure adrenaline. He was on fire for her, barely able to drag the breath in and out of his lungs.
It wasn’t just lust. It was a feeling of completion, the click of a final puzzle piece being put into place. It was one he hadn’t known he’d been missing, but now that she was here in his arms, he knew the picture of his life would never have been complete without her.
He angled her head and took their kiss deeper, sweeping her mouth slowly, relishing every inch of sweet warmth. She tasted like wine and strawberries, like the sea and the wind.
Her arms came around him and he pulled her closer, pressing her against his body, her exquisite softness molding to the hard planes of his body, filling all the empty places he hadn’t known existed.
He meant to take it easy. To take it slow. Both admirable notions that were thrown to the wind when she sighed into his mouth, pressed closer against him, her breasts crushed against his chest.
There was no more caution then. Only his hands on her body, mapping the fullness of her breasts, the taper of her waist, the swell of her hips, painfully close under the thin fabric of her dress. He was aching to strip her bare. To learn her body in the moonlight and make her his.
“Braden…” she gasped, pulling away, then coming back in to kiss him again. “Can we…”
He pulled back, looked into her eyes.
“Can we take it slow?” she asked.
He held her face between his hands. “We can do anything you want, Nora.”
Her smile was so pure and so true it almost brought him to his knees. “It’s not that I don’t want to…” She laughed. “I want to.”
He looked into her eyes. “Looking at you is all I need.”
“You’ve been looking at me a long time, Kane. You’re not sick of me yet?”
“I’m just getting started.” It came out more intense than he’d intended, all his pent-up feelings spilling over into his words.
“Sounds intriguing,” she said.
“I’m nothing if not intriguing.” He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, bent his head, kissed her softly. “Now let’s get you home before my ungentlemanly instincts take over again.”
He took her hand and felt like he was holding the moon.
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About Michelle St. James
Michelle St. James aka Michelle Zink is the author of nineteen published books and seven novellas. Her first series, Prophecy of the Sisters (YA), was one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut novels. Her work has also been an Indie Next selection and has appeared on prestigious lists such as the Lonestar List, New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age, and Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and translated into over twenty languages. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.