Jarrod’s Valentine

manin suitA new short story starring Jarrod Bancroft


Macie’s face reflected the subdued outdoor light that filtered in through the restaurant window. Ignoring the clench in his chest, Jarrod studied her from across the noisy room. She looked like a work of art, the planes and lines of her face cast in shadow, her delicate skin framed by luxurious lengths of dark hair. One of those exquisite images painted by some long-dead artist where the woman’s pensive expression signaled vague internal conflict. His impulse was to rush over to the table, take her hands, and slip to his knees to ask what he could do to brighten her day. His mouth twisted and he turned back to his newspaper.

Whatever appetites Macie Fitzgerald provoked, today the situation at Bancroft Investments demanded his full attention. The stock report only reiterated what he already knew—their standing had slipped again. Somehow rumors had leaked. It was a matter of time before this blew wide open.

He quietly folded the paper, signaled the waiter and paid his check before slipping out the side door. Much as he wanted Macie right now, the ugly responsibilities in his real life could not wait.

The door to his dad’s office was slightly ajar. His father stood at the windows in the far corner, his back turned as he stared out into the city. The older man’s shoulders triggered Jarrod’s memory, all the times those same shoulders had loomed over him, an impenetrable wall of dark against dim light. An immovable object. Jarrod swallowed an ugly taste in his mouth. And it had nothing to do with his lunch.

So the bastard already knew.

“Took your time,” the old man said. He didn’t bother to turn. “You’ve never appreciated the value of a full day’s work.”

“Fuck you, Preston,” Jarrod said. He slipped off his overcoat and dropped it on the chair. He stood beside the desk and folded his arms, facing his father’s back.

“What do you plan to do?” Preston said. “Are you riding your white horse, ready to save the world?”

“Anything to sidestep the facts,” Jarrod said. “That’s been your strategy all along. I remember my first weeks here, when I went through the files for that mutual fund and asked you, and you shifted blame to Evers. Always somebody else’s fault. Always something I made up or misinterpreted.”

“So you’re going to bring the house down around our ears, is that the plan?”

“You assigned me the dirty work thinking I wouldn’t put it together.” Jarrod spun the desk chair around and gripped the thick leather back. “I’ve dug all the way down. I’m not buying any more of your bullshit.”

Preston whirled to face him. The flesh around his nose had turned white. “Whine, you little fuck. You have no idea. I’ve worked my ass off, dedicated my life to giving you and your mother the very best. I don’t answer to you.”

Jarrod swallowed his rage, sinking his fingers into the chair upholstery to keep from planting a fist in that smug face. The man might be a despicable cheat, but he was his father. “You’ll answer to the prosecutor. Evers won’t take this sitting down.”

“Evers is as big a baby as you are. Suck it up, boy. This is how things get done.”

Jarrod closed his eyes then slammed out of the room. Nothing he could say would change Preston Bancroft. Why had it taken him twenty-eight years to accept that fact? \

Odd how familiar this all felt. As if he’d seen it in a dream. As if he’d wished it a thousand times and only now realized it. He strode to his office and slid open his desk drawers looking for anything that might hold value, but after a few minutes, he grabbed his overcoat and stalked out.


Jarrod had no idea how long he’d walked. Traffic had thinned slightly but people still crowded the sidewalks. Snow whirled down from a pale gray sky obscuring the tops of the taller buildings. Even jammed deep into his overcoat pockets, his hands felt like chunks of ice. Kind of like his stomach.

What if his father was right? Jarrod released his breath between pursed lips. Did the world of corporate finance require this kind of deception and manipulation? Law school hadn’t prepared him for this. Would he look back in twenty years and realize he’d been hopelessly naïve?

Maybe he would. But right now, this day, he had to sit down and think about his options. Carefully. With whiskey.

He shook his head as the image of Macie formed in his mind. Macie in her boots and corset standing over him, her gorgeous breasts bulging at the neckline, her green eyes flashing as she demanded his complete obedience. He longed for the dungeon, the reassurance of bonds strapped firmly on his wrists and ankles, the blessing of a lash stinging his back and buttocks. He wanted to crawl to Macie’s feet and never leave, live by her command.

He snorted in disgust. What would Preston say if he had any idea about his role with Macie and her Academy? Jarrod couldn’t even imagine. He’d gone for the training to satisfy a long-held secret desire, the overwhelming need to explore an aspect of himself that he’d always managed to suppress. What he’d found there shocked him, even now. Every day of his enthusiastic submission to pain and discipline shocked him.

But he loved it. Craved it. Felt blissfully happy in ways he’d never imagined.

And finding Mrs. Fitzgerald? Macie Fucking Fitzgerald? How many restless nights in high school had he imagined touching her? How many history classes had he watched her walk across the front of the room, write on the chalkboard, pierce him with her intense gaze while he hunched over in his desk trying to hide his erection?

He’d been a boy then, but he wasn’t a boy now. The discovery that the harsh mistress overseeing his training at the Academy had been the same woman who opened his mind to the triumphs and foibles of human endeavor had left him without defenses. It wasn’t just her beauty or her unflinching skill at domination that awed him. It was the depth of her understanding of human nature.

Even more intriguing was the mystery in her that broke to the surface in unexpected moments. When she was vulnerable. When they had reached the point of exhaustion and satiety and she curled in his arms.

Jarrod stopped, staring blindly into a store window where a display of Valentine hearts and cavorting cupids barely penetrated his consciousness. A tall man with dark hair and a worried expression stared back at him. Fucking Valentine’s Day.

His arms felt empty without her. In the dark eyes gazing back at him in the glass, he saw the truth of what he really wanted from her.


He wanted forever.

Backyard barbeques. Dogs. Long rainy evenings snuggled on the couch together. Walks along the beach. Macie watching him undress, opening her arms to his embrace. Her lips curved in that entrancing smile.

Jarrod shoved the heavy glass door open and stopped at the counter. The air smelled of warm chocolate, sugar, and a hint of cinnamon. Stuffed animals, shiny heart-shaped balloons, and confections of every shape and flavor crowded the surrounding tables. What the hell was he doing?

Would Macie take offense at a display of affection? He couldn’t exactly break out of a slave’s expected behavior and vow eternal love. He was acting on impulse. She might reject him entirely. He glanced up at the woman standing on the other side of the counter,

“Something small,” he said. “Friendly but not too much.”

She studied him, her carefully sculpted eyebrows knitted in a frown. “Chocolate?”

“Definitely chocolate,” he said.

The clerk’s thin shoulders jutted against her draped red sweater as she lifted a small heart toward him. The cellophane wrap rustled as she placed it on the glass countertop. “Top of the line chocolate truffles,” she said. “We also have creams or assorted bonbons in this size. What does she like?”

Jarrod paused, staring at the glistening red package. He had no idea what she liked. Maybe he was way off track with this idea. She’d never given him a gift. At her invitation after Academy graduation, he’d moved into her townhouse as her slave. It was a vacation from reality and the most fulfilling experience he’d ever known. A strict protocol ruled his activity there. Each day when he walked away from Bancroft Investments and the world of business, his existence narrowed down to Macie. He took off his real world life at the same time he took off his clothes. What she wanted, what she demanded. Macie in control.

But despite her assured control, he suddenly realized he’d always sensed an opening. His face heated as he remembered his brash act the night of Academy graduation. He’d taken her. The need she’d teased along for six weeks boiled to the surface and he barely been able to ask permission before throwing her back on the bed. She acted as though she expected it, as if she’d been waiting for him.

What the hell could he assume from that?

Even in high school, some part of him understood that he had the power to take her. At that point, he had no clue how to use that power on a woman ten years older. With the many females he’d bedded over the years, his actions had seemed like play. He toyed with women, watched them from a distance, predicted what they’d do or say. Teased them along. All of it bored him.

A few times since then, even as Macie’s slave, he’d pushed the boundaries.  Much as he loved pleasing her, he also loved the undercurrent of as-yet-unfulfilled promises they both knew but never discussed. That he would, someday, pin her against the wall and rip off her clothes one piece at a time. Hold her hostage at the end of his cock. Watch her nipples tighten under his gaze until they protruded like chocolate candies waiting for his mouth.

“The creams,” he said, jerking out of his reverie. His cock had stiffened. “Assorted creams.”

With the package caught under his arm, he stopped to wait for a light surrounded by a dozen other pedestrians bundled against the cold. Traffic snarls backed up to the next block, a typical Friday afternoon. Only it didn’t feel typical. It felt charged, like the ground could erupt any moment, like a tsunami rolled toward him.

He pictured her townhouse, the fireplace, the look in her eyes when he would start unbuttoning her blouse. How her skin would glow in the firelight as he leaned over her. How her dark hair would pool against the rug. How she would taste. The sound of her voice protesting.  How he would hold her wrists and make her gasp.

“Taxi!” he called, stepping to the curb. Yeah, the ground could erupt. To hell with Preston Bancroft and his criminal enterprise. To hell with doubt and protocol and silly rules meant to be broken. He knew what he wanted. He was taking it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Read the full incredible story of Jarrod Bancroft. On sale half price on Feb 14 ONLY. Your Valentine from me! Enjoy!


Jarrod’s Favorite Things to Eat

cookJarrod Bancroft’s Top Ten Meals, or My Favorite Things to Eat

Food? I’m a fan. I’ve got no issues with cooking for myself. I like to cook. First meal I served to my bitch mistress, Macie Fitzgerald, sure surprised her. Hey, she had few surprises for me too—in the kitchen, hallway, den, her bedroom… But that’s another story.

10.  I have to be desperate to cook up a batch of lasagna, but the good thing is, when I do, I have enough for four meals. That stuff freezes great. You can use bottled sauce if you want, but if I’m going to make this, I want to do the whole thing. Sometimes I use ground beef, sometimes not. But definitely onions, green peppers, garlic, and diced tomatoes. Throw in the seasoning–fresh herbs if you have them, or dried–but use basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and a little rosemary never hurt. Or buy the premixed Italian seasoning and add about a tablespoon. Simmer until it’s a smooth, thick sauce, at least an hour. Figure out your favorite—bottled or made from scratch. Don’t skimp on the sauce—you’ll need a lot.

Boil the noodles, rinse in cold water, and set aside with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together. For a 9×13 pan, mix 16 ounces of small curd cottage cheese with four ounces of grated Parmesan, 2 eggs beaten, and 12 ounces grated mozzarella. (Please, none of this low fat junk.) Add the same seasoning as you used in the sauce, another tablespoon. Spread sauce, then noodles, then cheese mixture, then sauce, noodles and cheese, until you run out of ingredients. End with a layer of sauce, sprinkle with more parm, bake an hour. Open the wine, heat the bread… Come on, I don’t have to tell you that, do I?

9. Jambalaya. I admit to watching a few cooking shows. Rachel Ray knocks it out of the park with her jambalaya recipe—Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp. Look for it online at the Food Network site. No major production with making roux, or fussing over details. Just cook that spicy baby ‘til your mouth is watering so bad you’re going to burn your tongue not waiting for it to cool. Doesn’t hurt that it’s all one pot—except for the rice. Better the second day, the third day—as long as it lasts, or hell, freeze batches and eat it later. Gotta have crusty bread. A tall cold one earns extra points.

8. Broccoli-Beef stir-fry. Buy sirloin or chuck steak. Stick it in the freezer until it’s almost frozen—that makes it easier to cut thin slices. Slice a cup of green onion and two cups of broccoli. It doesn’t matter if the broccoli is all flowerets. You can slice the stem, too. Depending on how meaty you like it, use 1 ½ to 2 cups of meat. A little green pepper doesn’t hurt, if you like. Put the rice on to cook—I like long grain, organic basmati, but that’s up to you. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic. Prepare fresh ginger to grate onto the mixture, about a tablespoon. Get some of that paste beef bouillon. Then turn the fire on under your wok or iron skillet until it’s smoking hot. Throw in a little oil, then the beef and onion (and green pepper if you’re using it), sprinkle with salt, and stir until the beef has lost its redness. Then add the broccoli. Keep stirring until it starts to dry up in the pan, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir a bit longer until you really start freaking that the whole mess is going to burn then pour in a cup of water. Careful, it’s going to sizzle. Add another half cup of water, then a level teaspoon of the beef bouillon paste. Stir until fully blended. Let it bubble a couple more minutes. You decide—want your broccoli al dente? Serve now. Like it softer? Put on a lid, reduce heat to low, and wait another five. Killer: garlic-butter croutons on the side.

7.  When I said I liked to cook, did I give you the idea I was into a bunch of fancy composed dishes? Well, forget that. Nothing turns me off a restaurant faster than some tortured stack of mystery ingredients in the middle of a big plate. I want real food. Like baked chicken. Rinse the bird inside and out, pat dry, stuff some celery, sage, and onion inside that baby, rub the skin with butter all over, and sprinkle with poultry seasoning (easy, now, maybe a half teaspoon), salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Put it in a clay cooking pot or cast iron Dutch oven with a cup of water, let it bake for at least two hours at four hundred degrees. (Check at least once to ensure there’s still some liquid in the pan. Add more water if necessary.) If you’ve got room in the pot, add some small onions and fingerling potatoes. Damn. That’s a feast I never found in a restaurant as good as I can cook it at home.

6.  Same principle applies with a beef roast. I like chuck because there’s just enough fat in the muscle to break it down to fork tender. If you’re reading my story Ms. Lizzie Ashworth channeled for me, you’ll get the idea in Book III. Sear in a hot pan til all sides are browned, throw in some onions and garlic, add a splash of sherry and 2 cups water, then cook on low for at least four hours. Last hour or so, add some carrots, potatoes, and more onions if you like. Whole meal in one pan. I never said I liked doing dishes. Unless Mistress makes me. That’s a whole other meal, er, job.

5.  Barbeque ribs—let me say I never cooked any ribs as good as I had in Kansas City. There are too many good places there to single out one. The sauce is smoky, sweet, and spicy at the same time. Meat falling off the bone. Can’t stop eating that shit. Have to wash my hands before I pick up my drink. No way to eat pork ribs without getting messy.

4.  Johnny’s at the harbor in Santa Cruz, California—one of the best grilled fresh, wild-caught salmon fillets I ever tasted. Enough sear on the outside to give it that charred flavor. Insides still moist and flaky, just enough seasoning to compliment the natural delicate taste. Comes with some killer cheesy polenta and seasonal vegetables. Why did you ask me about this? I’m hungry, and it’s ten a.m. Alternate—buy your own salmon, set up the grill or use the broiler, swab with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with dill, freshly ground black pepper, and kosher salt, and…go!

3.  Okay, I admit that underneath it all, I’m a guy who loves what all guys love. A big juicy cheeseburger is perfection. Oozing with mustard, towering with slices of fresh tomato, onions, and dill pickles, crisp lettuce, a layer of melted cheese, oh damn, a thick burger on a toasted bun stops all conversation. Fries are nice, iced tea or a cold beer—sure, I’ll take it. Not necessary, though. Best possible—fire up the backyard grill.

2.  Steak. Baked potato. Iceberg lettuce wedges, salted. Sliced homegrown tomatoes. That is all.

And my Number One favorite tasty treat:

1.  Macie Fitzgerald. No cooking necessary. Prep as needed, ideally on a freshly made kingsize bed. Um, baby.

Excerpt, Faint Heart

field creek 0001When Cara looked up, Morgan’s eyes lingered on her mouth and heat flared to her nipples. They talked about the natural flow of water and spreading it wider for better visual access, and when she caught his lazy glance, she was sure he was talking about something else entirely. Her eyes followed the stroke of his tongue across his lips after he sipped his scotch. She glimpsed the base of his throat where the movement of his swallowing shifted into the ‘v’ of his shirt. Her head spun with the wine and his laugh and the sheer pleasure of sitting with him.

She leapt up to stir the potatoes. A quietly stern voice lectured her from the back of her brain and pointed out that the real reason she invited him was that more than anything, she wanted to be carried away in his strong arms. Again. Only this time, straight to her bed. And now, it seemed things were headed in that direction.

Panicky alarm bells clanged in her head. How could she get out of this? Did she even want to get out? Wasn’t the real plan to go to bed and get all this drama settled?

Oh, shit, she was so confused.

She turned and ran smack against his chest. He took her shoulders in his hands and pulled her up toward him as his mouth lowered to hers. Blindly, she lifted her mouth and pressed it against his, sinking immediately into a blissful chorus of white noise. His lips brushed and teased, crushed and pushed, and then the tip of his tongue slid against her lips. Fire shot through her stomach.

Oh god in heaven, she wanted him. Her mouth opened against his lips as a quiet sigh formed in her chest. Her hands swept past his warm shoulders and splayed across his muscled back. His hands slid down her arms then released the tie in her hair. His fingers plunged deep into its thickness.

She felt him questioning, pausing. He pulled back, his intense blue eyes half closed.

“Cara,” he whispered, “I dream about you.”

Buy link: Amazon

New Release — FAINT HEART, a sexy romance

faint2 ebook copy redCara Carson only wants one thing, and it isn’t a man. Since the tragic death of her husband, she has focused on creating a business she could give herself to, a ‘marriage’ that will never leave her stunned in grief. Her recipes are perfected and the old house remodel is underway. But on this raw March morning, the contractor isn’t returning her calls, there’s a bulldozer mired in mud on the side lot, and the man operating it has managed to destroy the huge old willow tree she wanted saved. Furious, she charges across the mire to demand answers and finds her feet stuck and then her heart flailing after the bulldozer operator has to come carry her out.

Morgan Woods never believed in love. Until now, it’s been easy to take and leave women. This woman shouldn’t be any different, except something about her pouty pink lips and her blazing hazel eyes sails past all his defenses. His business-partner dad is sick and his businesses are struggling, but he never wants to let this woman out of his arms.

Can two broken people find a way to trust again? Or will their mistakes only add more layers to the scars already shrouding their hearts?


Book 2 in Jarrod series…

One of the supreme joys of writing –for me at least–is stories that write themselves. Jarrod Bancroft and his stern Madam, Macie Fitzgerald, broke onto the printed page that way, and there seems no stopping them. Now, in Book 2 of the series, Valentine’s Day provokes a darker round of self-examination for them both. Snowy weather and blazing sex in this novella of 18,800 words.


Just Ask

bigstock-Sexy-Muscular-Shirtless-Man-30768167Explicit sexual content, adults only.

Emily knew she should never have taken her. But she needed gas, and the two of them were on their way to a showing at the new Springloft apartment complex, and Sheryn needed the training. Emily cursed under her breath.

“Oh, shit, I see what you mean,” Sheryn enthused, squinting her eyes as the attendant came toward the car.

“Well, don’t say anything, or I’ll throttle you.”

“Can I pant?”

“Shut up.”

His body moved inside that uniform like a well-oiled machine, all ridges and curves and hard planes of muscle that should be illegal outside of a strip club. He leaned down at Emily’s open window and gave one of his most charming smiles. She resisted the urge to do something rash.

“What can I help you ladies with today?”

“Oh…” Sheryn began.

“I need gas,” Emily quickly interrupted, “and my windshield keeps streaking.”

“We can take care of that,” he said confidently. “Fill it up?”

“Oh. My. God,” Sheryn whispered.

Emily threw her a hate glare. “Yes, please.”

He held his head at a cocky angle as he walked around to the gas cap. Emily waited, completely distracted. A tapping sound and him pointing reminded her to flip the opener.

“Damn,” she muttered.

“You should just ask him,” Sheryn said. “What the hell? Just quit thinking about it and ask him. I sure as hell would. God, look at that.”

He had gathered paper towels and a spray bottle, and leaned across the hood to scrub the windshield. Muscle and veins corded his forearms and hands. Emily felt faint.

“I think I’m going to ask him,” Sheryn continued.

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Seriously? Do you have some kind of claim?”

“No, but if you’re going to get in the middle of this, it better be when I’m not around.”

“Then ask him. Or I’ll ask him for you.”

“No, absolutely not.”

“I am. Seriously.”


“Okay, you asked for it.” Sheryn rolled her window down.

“Sheryn!” she hissed. “Stop!”


“Okay, I’ll say something.”

“Not just ‘something,’ ask him out.”

He grinned from the front of the car and it crossed Emily’s mind that somehow he was hearing all this, that maybe the heat vents channeled their voices out through the front and he heard every word. She broke out in a sweat.

“Damn it, Sheryn, I’m never taking you with me again. Anywhere.”

“Am I fired?” Sheryn grinned. “His name is Chris, right?” She leaned her face to the window. “Chris?”

He came around from the pump, wiping his hands.

“Damn you,” Emily cursed, imagining kicking her—literally—out the door.

He leaned into Sheryn’s window. “Did you need something else?”

“Emily wants to ask you something.”

The bitch smirked and gave Emily a thumbs-up as he came around to the driver’s side. Her heart drummed in her ears. All the times she had thought of doing this very thing, all the clever come-ons, flirts, seductive glances, and none of it, absolutely not one shred, remained within the reach of her mind.

“What do you need?” he asked.

Oh fucking damn. “I need…”

“I’ll say it if you don’t,” Sheryl mumbled.

“I wondered what you were doing after work,” she said in a rush.

He stood up. Emily knew it. This was where he laughed in her face and told her to get a life. Something like that.

“Whatever you’re doing,” he said.

His green eyes watched her like she would say something else. She had nothing to say. Actually couldn’t talk. Since when did she revert to thirteen? She considered just driving off without paying and never coming back.

“Okay,” she managed in a hoarse voice.

“I get off at four,” he said. “And the gas is fifty-three dollars.”

She handed him the debit card and watched him walk inside. She didn’t look at Sheryn. “I could kill you.”

“Oh, get over it. You’ve got a date now. How bad is that?”

“You’re a meddling bitch, and not my friend, and when this blows up on me, I’m going to kill myself right after I kill you.”

Sheryn was still laughing hysterically as they drove away.


Emily threw her things into the tiny backseat of his battered, antique Porsche convertible. He looked so damn fine, she could hardly stand it. The car vroomed to life and they lurched off.

If she could just ride with him forever, if the road never ended. His sun-bleached hair whirled and tossed in the wind, and she was reduced to holding hers down with both hands, but the gale did nothing to quench the fire burning between her thighs. She imagined him taking her to some remote hideaway and forcing her to the end of her mind.

“So what now, boss?” he grinned.

Damn. She didn’t want to be the boss. But yeah, this was her idea. Sheryn’s idea, and she had forced her to plan what would happen. It was a brazen plan.

“I’ve got a cabin on the lake,” Emily began. “Up near Walnut Cove. We could go there, hang out, see the sights,” she finished weakly.

He didn’t glance over, and the pulse in his jaw told her she had taken a lot for granted. How could she just assume the lightning desire she felt would be mutual? He was so much younger. She was his customer. He’d probably been laughing about her with the mechanics. She had let herself get carried away in a fantasy, and thanks to Sheryn, now humiliating reality was going to kick her ass.

She would say nothing. Actually, she could think of absolutely nothing to say. Nothing witty, urbane, exotic. She wanted to shrink into the worn leather upholstery. She wanted to rewind to four hours earlier and leave her fantasies as fantasies. Too bad, genius. Too late.

She turned her head slightly toward the side mirror so that his periodic glances didn’t catch much of her worried expression. The countryside whipped by as he maneuvered onto the four-lane. Why couldn’t she just get off on the fact that she was here, within two feet of him, within touching distance of that lithe and muscled frame that had tempted her to such idiocy?

Well, what was worse—agog from afar, or tortured within touching distance? Emily kept getting whiffs of his aftershave, one of those masculine scents whipped up by an evil chemist on Satan’s payroll. Her heat level kept rising, and he could be taking her bowling. Or something equally mundane. Of course he had no intention of tucking himself away in a remote cabin alone with her. She couldn’t bring herself to ask.

Maybe this was one of those fabled hormone surges of menopausal women. From all she heard over the years of her life, for all the Cosmo articles, she hadn’t exactly gleaned that the looming loss of fertility caused women to become predators. But then, there were all those cougar jokes. She had never paid much attention to that, had never watched any of the TV shows that made fun of it, exploited it, but maybe that’s exactly what she was. She was, after all, an older woman, and he was—what—mid-twenties?

Emily cut her eyes sideways to try to see his expression. He caught her glance immediately.


“Just wondering, uh—about your age.”

“Nearly thirty,” he said. “And you?”

She flushed. Damn it, he was quick on the draw. Did he mean to embarrass her or was he simply curious?

“Older than thirty,” she said. “By about fifteen years.”

He raised his eyebrows and gave her one of those looks with a half-cocked grin, like she had shown him her naked breast. Well, she had revealed a secret, and maybe it was an intimate as a breast. Emily didn’t hate her body like some of her friends. What she had was what she had, enough in the breast department to fill out blouse darts. Enough good genes that she managed to eat what she liked and yet maintain fighting weight. Yes, things had started moving south, a little sag under the chin and around the waist. She didn’t want to think about all that. She wanted to feel young, exciting, beautiful, and so desirable that this man fifteen years—well, really, seventeen years—younger wouldn’t be able to resist.

She resumed her former silence. Sooner or later, he would start some kind of conversation and it would be on his terms, his topic. She would give up everything to him for as long as the ride lasted. And it surely wouldn’t last much longer. The unusually warm December afternoon had quickly fallen toward dusk, and the heat of the sun no longer overcame the chill in the air.

He geared down at an off-ramp and pulled off onto the wide, graveled shoulder. Emily looked at him, but stifled her questions. He walked toward the back of the car and began yanking on the convertible roof.

“You wanna give me a hand, lady?”

He said it in a teasing voice, but was he teasing by calling her ‘lady’ or with the sexual innuendo? She grabbed onto the thick canvas folds, struggling to pull the heavy frame up and forward. Maybe he just meant he really needed some help getting the damn thing up. Maybe he was just as fucking cold as she was and didn’t want to drive all the way back into town freezing his ass off.  She tried to force the latches together and managed to rip one of her fingernails into the quick.

“Shit,” she muttered, sucking on the painful tear.

“Sorry,” he said. “She’s a stubborn bitch sometimes.”

His green gaze bored into her. It was like those many times she had waited for him to finish cleaning the windshield or checking under the hood, and allowed her eyes to feast on him. All the times she had waited at the inside counter while he roamed around in the garage to get an estimate for her repairs, or to see if repairs were finished. He’d push through the swinging door bringing that smell with him, the smell of autos and tires and oil and transmission fluid and whatever else mixed in. And he’d transform before her eyes, walking toward the counter as the automotive scent faded, tossing down the faded red utility rag he’d used to wipe his hands, taking up his pen or the calculator and regaining his position as front manager, as the man who talked to the customers, the women. And he’d catch her stare. And a half grin would curl at the corner of his mouth.

Was he calling her a stubborn bitch? Was she a major pain in his ass, the lady with the Mercedes who couldn’t take no for an answer, the one who forced the issue, issued a challenge, challenged him to a dare. A dare he now regretted? A dare he never meant to meet? This could all be a tease, some elaborate detour around the invisible topic, the thing she hadn’t actually said. He could be exploiting that, dragging it out. She really was going to slap Sheryn.

At least it was warmer now. The car rumbled down to the turn. This was where he’d make a left, loop around, and get on the side of the highway that headed back into the city. This was when she’d know his answer to the question she never really asked. All those times she had imagined him in bed. With her. Those eyes burning with lust, those sinewed forearms and hands reaching, firmly holding. The question—do you want me?

No—Emily almost gasped. He took the on-ramp going north. Where did he plan to take her? The city fringes had pretty much thinned. No bowling alleys this far out. Maybe he just wanted to drive longer, maybe there were personal issues he needed to figure out, and he’d taken her along for the drive. Plenty of men didn’t talk through what they were thinking. Instead, they drove. Or worked, or compulsively clicked through forty channels without even seeing what was on the screen. As if somewhere along the way, the solution to his problem would arrive in front of his face.

She wouldn’t take the initiative, she decided again. Stay quiet. Force him to talk, to take the lead, determine the subject. This was her concession, giving up words, questions, control. If he didn’t talk, take the initiative, at least she wouldn’t further humiliate herself. Anyway, she couldn’t trust anything that might come out of her mouth.

They drove into the fading light, a veil of coral at the western skyline. The landscape became a kaleidoscope of lights from passing cars, buildings scattered here and there, farms with distant pink vapor lamps high on poles. Emily felt strangely content, nestled in the worn leather seat. His brawny hand rested on the gear shift just inches from her thigh, and for a brief period of time, she let herself imagine that hand moving over to touch her. She imagined his chiseled face, illuminated by the dashboard lights into planes of light and dark, turning toward her with words of acceptance and intent.

None of that could be said. At this point, it didn’t really matter. They’d been driving for nearly an hour, and he hadn’t said anything personal or anything reassuring, and it should have been clear to anyone but an utter fool that he was literally taking her for a ride. Period. She hadn’t considered herself a desperate woman, and damn it, she wasn’t.

She wished she had been bold enough to act on her attraction, proposition him, be the mover without any prodding from Sheryn. If she had that kind of backbone, she also would have the assurance that she didn’t have to have him. Whenever he tired of his drive, or whatever this was, he’d take her back to her car, and she wouldn’t fold up. A stronger Emily would go home, pour a stiff drink, and get over it. That was who she wanted to be.

“Is this the exit?” he said, his voice a sudden interruption to the silence.

“The exit?” Emily stared around. “To what?”

“Where the hell do you think? Did you take a walk on me?” He laughed, his face wrinkling into deeper shadow. “To your cabin.”

Her cabin. Emily felt like she’d been hit in the stomach. A thousand words stumbled through her mind and none of them made a complete, coherent thought. Did he want her? Did he think this was some kind of customer duty? She’d asked him and he was taking her up on it, and now she didn’t know if she could stand it.

“Yes, this is the exit.” The words came out in a choked voice. Maybe there was something else she needed to say, but she didn’t know what it was.

“How far?”

“Another twenty minutes,” she managed.

“Is that you driving or me?” he joked.

“The speed limit.”

“Uh huh.”

A new kind of panic settled in her body. What was the condition of the cabin? It had been two months since she’d been up there with friends, and as best she could remember, the place had been left in decent shape. But it was one of those shared things, and there were others who had access. Jesus, what if somebody else was up there?

Would he kiss her?

Her hands ached from clenching and unclenching. It wasn’t his driving, although as the road narrowed and began circling through the hills, his double clutching and down shifting brought her to a new level of appreciation for his skills. Not enough that he could be on the phone with two more lines flashing, a queue out the door of people wanting to schedule an oil change or brake pads, two other people waiting in cars at the full service pumps, and still have that calm presence, that fully cognizant expression on his face that reassured all of them that he knew they were there and he would take care of each in turn.

No, he had to be perfect at driving as well. This was the torment Emily had bestowed on herself that kept her swallowing and wiping sweaty palms on her jeans. Why today, of all the days she had watched, wanted, waited? Why hadn’t she waited some more, waited for him to make the move—if there was to be a move? Why did she think that suddenly it was okay for her, the older woman, to bluntly voice her desires—well, maybe not as bluntly as, yes, okay, bluntly—and force her attentions on this guy she hardly knew.  Really, how well could anyone know somebody she only saw at his job at a service station? She really wanted to strangle Sheryn.

Emily didn’t know him at all. He had become a mythic figure in her imagination, remembered from years before as a young soldier gone off to fight in the Middle East before returning to his family business older, wiser, sadder. Tan, his body hardened. His light brown hair bleached almost blonde, shaved short until after months it had grown to the slightly longer style he preferred. She knew what he looked like. She thought she knew something about him.

But really? She didn’t. She had framed him as she wanted him to be, how she needed him to be, and it had nothing to do with him. Hell, she didn’t even know if he loved someone!

The soundtrack to her drama became the whine and growl of the Porsche engine. It rose and fell as the hillsides became steeper, black in the enveloping night, fewer lights now in the landscape. Emily recognized the last gas station and realized they’d be at the road to the cabin in a few minutes.

“Are you going to tell me when to turn?”

She cleared her throat. “Yes, it’s up here on the right, there’s a red post by the turnoff.”

“You’re awfully quiet. Got a lot to think about?’

“Not really, just enjoying the drive.”

“Yeah, it’s a nice drive, a little long for my taste.”

Now he wants to talk. “I actually thought about inviting you to Germany,” she blurted. Damn it, what was she thinking? That had been another part of the dream, the two of them secreted away in a snow-bound cottage, him coming to her with that look. Smiling. Knowing.


“Yeah,” she groped for something to say. “Pretty ridiculous, I know, but I’ve got friends over there. They’re going to be gone for a month, and thought I’d enjoy the place while they’re gone. It was an impulse, that’s all. I didn’t want to go alone. I’m not that familiar with Germany.”

“I had about a week there on base on the way in and another two weeks on the way back, but they didn’t give us leave.”

She pictured him in a mass of other young men, all of them anxious, ready to do their duty, eager to get home. What would that be like? She wanted to touch him. “I see.” The red post came up quick. “Here’s the post.”

He jammed the clutch down and made the sharp turn. The familiar scent of the woods and nearby lake invaded her senses, that and the dark forested hillside stretching upward at a sharp angle. The rugged lane switched back and forth, and he took it slow.

Please let us be alone. But did she really want to be alone with him? What if he was an ass? What if he didn’t want her, and they just hung out and talked? How could this possibly turn out the way she imagined? Fantasies never come true. She was ruining it for herself, trying to make dreams into reality. More sweaty palms.

The cabin appeared in the headlights, its lonely profile accentuated by the glare. Funny how dreams never have these moments of panic, this long drawn out wait for something to happen while the stomach twists into knots and every possible wrong turn comes to mind. Funny how the closer you get to what you want, the more you don’t want it because it can’t really turn out the way you imagined.

Still, excitement surged through her as he circled close to the porch and set the brake.

“Is there electricity in there?”

She stared at him. Did he need to do something that required electricity?

“Should I leave the headlights on while you go in and turn on lights?” he asked in an almost impatient tone of voice, like he’d asked her before and she hadn’t answered.

“No,” Emily stammered, digging in her purse for the key. “There’s a thing…” Her fingers raced through the purse, trying to feel the key ring that held the remote for the cabin lights.

“A thing,” he said in a mildly sarcastic tone. “That’s code for…what? Would some light help?” He reached to the dash and clicked on the dome light.

She couldn’t look at him. She felt like she’d entered the seventh circle of Hell. She must look awful, a long day at work and this stew she’d put herself in over him. Over her insanity. She lifted the purse into the dim light, digging through the contents until she found the damn remote.

“Thanks,” she muttered, squeezing the control and watching the cabin lights spring to life.

He shut off the engine. Emily wanted to run. She wanted to ask him to turn around and drive back to the city. She should have been happy that none of the other three part-owners had decided to spend this weekend here. Or maybe they did, and would arrive at the worst possible moment. She realized she was shaking.

He turned in his seat to squarely face her. The porch light illuminated one side of his face.

“So I’m thirty. Does that matter?”

He said it in a serious tone, and she realized that in all the times she had watched him at the station, he’d never spoke in this kind of tone. What was he thinking?

“No, I mean, maybe, if it matters to you. That’s all.”

“Hey, this is your deal. I’m just here for the ride.”

He laughed but didn’t elaborate, and of course his words could only mean that he didn’t really want to be here, and that he saw this as some kind of favor, maybe an obligation for the countless hundreds, hell, thousands, of dollars that Emily Ferguson had placed into his hands for everything from replacing her daughter’s transmission to putting the truck into a new body after her son rolled it off an icy bridge. Maybe this was part of his job, she thought wildly, to keep the customer satisfied.

She didn’t know what to say. She opened the car door, and heard him follow as she climbed the steps to the high porch. In daylight, she could have marveled at the view, the expanse of water, the distant hills. But in the dark, the cabin’s gleaming honey-colored log structure loomed like an island in a vast black sea. Cold wind cut across her sweaty back and she couldn’t avoid the shiver that gripped her as she turned the knob and stepped inside. He closed the door behind them.

It was a small cabin, really just one big room with a fireplace at the far end with a couch facing it, a bed to the right and a bathroom and small kitchen area to the left with a wooden table and chairs. A few woven rugs scattered across the pine floors. The overhead light hurt her eyes, and she walked around the space turning on the stove hood light, the lamps on either side of the bed, and the floor lamp at the end of the couch before returning to the switch by the door to click off the overhead. The change in atmosphere relaxed her slightly, as much as she could possibly relax at a time like this, plus it gave her a chance to actually do something besides twist herself tighter into a knot.

“Nice,” he said, walking to the fireplace. “Fire?”

“That would be great,” she said. “There’s more wood outside.”

He made quick work of the fire, and she tried not to invest in the situation, this man she had wanted so long, a remote cabin with him squatted at the rock hearth stuffing paper under his deft pyramid of kindling. He knew how to build a fire. In moments, flames were leaping through the wood and spreading their quick orange fingers around the logs. She was literally wringing her hands as he went outside, carried in a huge armload of wood, and brushed himself off.

Then he was walking toward her, and there was this moment of him looking directly at her, his eyes actually riveted with hers, and she really thought she would faint. Is that even possible? Could she faint?

He stopped close in front of her. “Should we have brought food up here? I’m starved.”

Christ on a truck. Food.

“Yes,” she managed, “there is food.” She hurried to the refrigerator and hauled out frozen steaks, frozen prepared potato slabs. She opened the crisper drawers, but there was nothing but a couple of withered apples. Rummaging through cabinets produced canned vegetables of various types, soup, sardines, crackers, coffee, condiments, sugar. She gave herself entirely to her domestic duty, that female thing, of making food for the hungry man, and while it gave her some kind of half-assed satisfaction that the supplies were adequate to satisfy him, she also felt dissociated from the scene. The part of her that was preparing food wasn’t the ‘her’ who had propositioned him.

That ‘her,’ well, she had vanished down to a thin, tremulous fragment. She couldn’t hear her voice, didn’t want to know what it said, how it wept for what obviously had become a hopeless mission. Things now would turn to cooking, eating, cleaning up, desultory conversation about whatever a service station guy wanted to talk about, which obviously wasn’t going to be much, considering he had uttered, what, twelve words on the way up here?

He rummaged through the cabinets while Emily set the oven and opened packages. She placed the steaks on defrost in the microwave and wandered to the fireplace. Flames leapt from the split wood logs, growing in strength, crackling, dropping bits of red-hot coal into the ash bed.

“Here,” he said, brushing her sleeve with the back of his hand. He held a small glass half full of whiskey for each of them.

“Thanks.” She immediately took a sip of the amber liquid. It burned a path over her tongue, down her throat. She felt it hit her stomach, coil, and spread its heat.

“Good stuff,” he said, smiling as he took another drink. “High class all the way.”

Emily felt defensive. Was that a kind of nasty remark? “This is a special place. You know, if we’re going to go to the trouble to be up here, we might as well treat ourselves.”

“Sounds good to me.”

He drained the glass, and it occurred to her that the room had taken on the golden glow of the fireplace, light from the flames flickering against the side of his body and face, accenting the pale streaks in his hair, the curve of his mouth. The image of him there, in her cabin, struck her like a blow, sucked away her breath, and suddenly she knew what would happen next.

He set the glass on the hearth, took her glass, and brought his body next to hers in one fluid movement, so fast Emily couldn’t register on the reality of it, and yet, it seemed like he moved in slow motion. His lips brushed over hers and her knees turned to butter.

His arms came around her, pulling her tight against him. Without thinking, she returned the gesture, her hands caressing his shoulders, his neck and upper back as their mouths crushed together. He smelled like heaven, crisply scented with that tantalizing aftershave smell mixed with his own musky odor and a hint of wood smoke. His body felt like carved iron next to her, hot, strong, forceful as he pressed his hips forward to make his bulging groin known.

Oh, she knew. And that was all she knew. Her mind had become a mush of little more than blind response to his embrace, his tongue, the exploration of his hands over her waist, hips, buttocks. Her breasts, swollen and inflamed, pressed against him. An ooze of warm fluids wet her panties. She moaned.

He walked her backwards to the couch, landed her there, and knelt between her legs. Oh, dear God in heaven, he took only seconds to unzip her jeans and tug them down her thighs, and then his thumb had found a warm welcoming home within the wetness. She might have cried out, so intense was the sensation of this man’s hand on her there. She bit her palm.

In fleeting moments, Emily questioned whether she should put up some kind of resistance instead of yielding instantly to his every move. But the question was not only far away and indistinct, it was also absurd. This was exactly what she wanted, what she had longed for over the months, years, since she had first found herself caught in his muddy green stare. She could no sooner form a strategic seduction plan than she could whistle Deck the Halls. She was completely in his thrall.

He removed her boots, jeans, panties, and she lay like a rag doll on the soft upholstery as he sucked, licked, and probed with his tongue and fingers until her nipples jutted like stones and her juices ran. Unaccountable for her cries, groans, and pleas, she grabbed for his shoulders where his muscle rippled like a river current. She stroked her fingers through his hair, twisting and kneading. She flailed from side to side as his hands pushed her knees into the air and tucked her feet at her sides until the whole center of herself had been exposed fully to him, exposed and open, subject to his nipping teeth and thrusting tongue, his constant brush of fingers in and out of her, pulling her juices, provoking her uncontrolled response.

I have no shame. The thought formed and then vanished.

She wailed, wept, and yelled as he brought her to climax, once of those tidal waves of heat and spasm that raged from the top of her head to the soles of her sock-clad feet. The surges rolled through her belly, one after another. And then it occurred to her that he had brought the head of his cock to the flooded center of her sex, nudging only briefly and then plunging into the hungry depths.

Oh dear God, this was life and death captured in an instant. His cock spread her open and filled her up, drove to the heart of her soul, to the very core of her being. He thrust long and hard but slowly, so that after a few moments, she opened her eyes and saw him watching her.

“You like that,” he grunted, sliding in deep. Again.

“Oh, yes,” she gasped. “Yes.”

He held her thighs in a tight grip, remaining on his knees while he fucked her. Somehow his shirt had disappeared, and sweat lay on the skin of his chest in a glistening sheen. His muscles flexed and strained as he took his time fucking her, his breath coming in slow heaves, paced, calculating.

“Oh, please,” she begged, “fuck me hard.”

“Oh, yeah?” He smiled, a knowing smile that came with a sudden lunge forward. His cock drove far into her belly, and his knotted sac shoved against her ass. His breath came in noisy pants with each thrust.

He pounded fast and almost painfully hard, his cock so thick and deep, and again the fire rose and spread through her until sweat soaked her neck and her body pulsed around him, and still he fucked her. He was a fist, a club, inside her, battering at the door of her sanity, tearing open whatever she might have tried to hide. The tide rose and rose, and she was crying out, grasping his biceps, moving to meet his thrusts until the dam burst and her body rippled around him, seeking, asking, demanding. And still he did not come.

He waited while her whimpering and pulsing subsided, then slowly removed his cock. Glistening with wet, its head dark and threatening, his veined phallus stood in front of him like a weapon as he came to his feet. He reached out his hand to help her up, and then walked the few steps to the fireplace, where he squatted to poke at the wood and lay another two logs on the inferno. Heat licked Emily’s skin, and her nipples ached under the layer of her shirt and sweater.

“Time to get rid of this, don’t you think?” he asked in a soft voice.

It shook her up to hear him speak so gently, and she had no words as he lifted the clothing and threw it aside. He lowered his head to first one breast, then the other, and suckled the nipples. His hands encircled the pendulous flesh, kneading and teasing as his mouth tormented the pebbled points, and even more than before, fiery heat consumed her.

The fire at the hearth and the fire at the point of his tongue lathered her in sweat. She moaned. She pulled at his neck, the domes of his wide shoulders. Every time she managed to focus enough to glance at his face, he caught her gaze with a knowing grin, that damn green-eyed look that had snagged her so long before. Had that been his intent? Had he known? Had he played her?

It didn’t matter. Thoughts barely formed before vanishing into the feverish haze that enveloped her more every moment his mouth and hands lavished her breasts. All she could see was the fire’s reflection, the smooth tan skin undulating across his chest and shoulders, his forearms rising and falling to first one engorged mound and then the other. More juices flooded between her thighs.

He leaned back, assessing, as his thumbs continued to stroke the stiff peaks. “Think that will hold you for a while?”


“Another drink?”


He laughed, left her standing nude with her body blazing as he walked to the dark kitchen and poured more in the glasses. She drank in the vision, his taut buttocks, the strong thighs, the remarkable size of his rigid cock. Under his work uniform, this body had passed in and out of her view, hinting at its beauty, but even though she had mentally undressed him a hundred times, she had never quite imagined he could be so perfect. The lean curve of his abdomen lay like a slab of worked marble. His chest mounded with pectorals each peaked with small dark nipples. She swallowed as he walked back. He handed her the drinks and dug into his crumpled jeans to pull out a joint, raising his eyebrows in a question. She nodded.

They inhaled and exhaled slowly, savoring the sweet smoke. The night shifted as they sat on the raised stone hearth, both of them naked with their asses on the heated stone, both of them grinning in the impact of the drug and alcohol. The completely bizarre nature of their circumstances.

“Is that what you had in mind?” he said after a while.



“Oh, you mean…” She didn’t want to talk. “Yes.”

“Want more?’

What did he mean? “If you want to,” she replied cautiously. She wanted it never to end.

He laughed again, throwing his head back slightly to reveal his white teeth and the dimpled creases in his cheeks. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

He led her to the bed, threw back the covers, and mounted her, shoving her legs apart with his knees as he waded in. There were no preliminaries. He nudged the head at the entry, and worked his way along the tight canal until he fully bottomed and his pelvic bone rested against her clit. His cock had become even larger, it seemed, although she knew it must be just that she had swollen from the intensity of his fucking. It didn’t seem possible that he could get any bigger.

His body loomed over her, his muscles heaving and rippling in his exertion. She leaned up to tongue his nipples, sucking one then the other into stiff little points. His movements became faster, pushing her beyond any capacity for action as he spread her open and the head of his cock found that special place. He held himself, somehow aware of the spot inside of her, and began a rapid-fire short stroke that hit that spot repeatedly. Her vagina convulsed and gripped on him, and still he drove against the spot in a frenzied attack that blew her open, exploded her into a thousand pieces as she came in a shuddering howling burst.

Somehow, he managed not to come. Instead, he turned her on her side with her legs scissored out so that he lay between them and drove into her sideways. There was no thought, nothing but the blessed oblivion of his enormous cock sliding in and out, finding new places inside her to incite. He turned her again so that he came at her doggy style, and she felt his clustered scrotum slapping her puffy vulva with each shuddering thrust inside.

She drooled. She panted and groaned. Tears ran down her cheeks. He fucked her and then fucked her some more. He pressed against her anus and fucked her there with his finger while his cock drove her mad. She came again, bowing up in an uncontrolled spasm as he plunged into both holes.

He made noises now as he moved, guttural, animal, and his movements became more agitated. His cock felt gigantic and hot, and he let out a growling sound. His hips moved in short jerks as he buried himself fully inside, and the molten flow of his semen began filling her. Over and over, he reseated himself, with each new thrust releasing a new burst of burning liquid inside her belly.

They lay side by side in the bed. Emily wiped tears off her face. She turned to rest her hand on his chest, and he covered her hand with his. She could see his neck veins pulsing, slowing as his breathing gradually became lighter. His hot skin warmed her breast, belly, thighs as they lay together.

The questions started coming back. Was this a one-time thing? What did she want? If she saw him again, if this turned into something, could she avoid developing emotions about him? How did a casual sex thing keep from getting complicated? She had been married. Twice. She didn’t want to be in love. But she wanted him to want her, find her desirable. Was she a desperate aging woman? She wanted him to hold her in his arms just like he was doing now, wanted him to think of her, be with her. How fucked up could this get?

He cleared his throat. “You were going to take me to Germany?”

She managed a weak laugh. She’d tipped her hand in every possible way. “Yeah, crazy maybe. I know you have a job, and I have things, you know. I thought…”

“Did anybody ever tell you you think too much?” he interrupted.

She missed a beat. Was he trying to tell her something? “No. Maybe.”

“How long did you think about this?”

“What? This, this?” She motioned around the room.

“This,” he said, capturing her breast in his hand.

“A long time. It’s not really my place, you know. You might feel obligated or something. Or, I don’t know, make a joke.”

“I wondered why it took you so long.”

Air drained out of her lungs. What the hell? Had she been that obvious? How many women had hit on this guy? He had the most outrageous ego! He must think she was absolutely pathetic. Damn Sheryn. Damn damn damn.

“Sorry,” she said. “You could have said something.”

He laughed. “That would have taken the fun out of it.”

“Damn you!”

He laughed harder and sat up. “Can we eat now?”


“Gotta keep up my strength,” he said, standing at the couch and dragging his jeans up his thighs. “Otherwise you might fuck me to death.”

“Damn. I’m so embarrassed,” Emily raged, grabbing her clothes and dressing as fast as possible. What the hell was he trying to say?

He stalked around the couch and grabbed her up. “You think I didn’t want you, all those times you walked in the office all prim in those fucking suits and ready for business? I imagined taking you right there on the floor. Hell, let people watch and charge admission. I thought about trading you through all the guys in the back, stealing you back there after work and let every one of them take a turn before I finished you off.”

“Oh, god, you think I’m a slut.”

“No, Mrs. Ferguson, I think you’re a damn good lookin’ woman who isn’t getting fucked nearly as much as she needs, and I wanted to put my cock in your mouth and watch you groan. I wanted to fuck you from the first time I saw you.” He led her to the kitchen and started pulling pans out of the cabinets. “But policy is policy, and Eddie made it clear a long time ago—even if I am his half-brother, I can’t go around fucking the clientele. Bad for business.”


“Remember, you think too much. I might not be allowed to start anything, but I’m not going to turn down an offer.” He grinned. “I just can’t believe it took you so long.”

The steaks sizzled in the big skillet. He pulled out a bottle of cabernet and poured. They smoked more of his joint talking about weather, their jobs, the tantalizing scent of cooking meat. Starving, they ate bits of cheese with crackers waiting for the potatoes to finish. His eyes gleamed at her, a kind of predatory look that set her teeth on edge, and she wondered if she could actually sleep with a man in bed beside her after all this time, and if she did, what he would think in the morning when the blush of the sex had worn off and she looked like shit.

He winked. “Thinking again?”

She managed a half smile.

“I thought I told you about that,” he said.


“We’ll get you cured,” he reassured her. His eyes narrowed. “But I think it might take a while.”

Oh, Sheryn.