Authors: Adriane Leigh
Copyright 2015 by Adriane Leigh
Cover Photo: Michael Stokes
Cover: Mayhem Cover Creations
Editing: Adept Edits
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The Wild Series
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Steel and Lace: The Complete Series
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The Morning Series
(Best friends, margaritas, and steamy nights!)
For the girls in the back that think they go unnoticed and all the bad boys that finally made good.
My heart pounded in unwavering beats. I stood over him, tears rushing down my cheeks, my eyes unblinking at the slumped form sprawled across the seeping maroon concrete.
“Hunter,” I sobbed and dropped to my knees, the concrete grating the denim, soaking the blood clear through. I didn’t care. All I saw was him, because for the first time since we’d met, I couldn’t feel him.
“Hunter, please, breathe,” I whimpered and dropped my ear to his barely parted lips. The lips I’d pressed to mine tenderly, the lips that had roamed my skin and caressed my body.
“Hunter—” I choked on the words as tears rained down my cheeks, my hands and body trembling so fiercely I couldn’t focus long enough to tell if he was breathing.
I can’t feel him. He’s gone.
“Hunter,” I whispered and tried to still my misfiring heart.
“He’s as good as dead, Erin.” A voice echoed over my shoulder and sent chills racing down my spine. No. NO. “No!” I turned to find empty pits of burnt amber assessing me.
“What did you do?” I shrieked and balled my tiny fists into the hard rock wall of the man towering over me. His hands caught my wrists with ease and halted my assault.
“Don’t fuck with me.” The familiar eyes tore into mine as I hunkered from his imposing force. His grip tightened painfully, ripping a grunt past my lips.
“No,” I moaned, ready to collapse at Hunter’s slouched form. Nothing mattered — the world ceased moving when Hunter’s heart had stopped in his chest.
“Let’s go.” John Walker hauled me from the concrete and carried me through the dark corridors of the warehouse and away from the man who’d promised he’d always protect me.
MY HIGH-HEELED BOOTS hit the pavement at a dead run as I whipped through the business-suited bodies of Chicago’s financial district. A taxi suddenly sped from a parked spot, and I halted, stumbled forward, and then steadied as a dark-sleeved arm grasped my elbow and pulled me from a near certain display of awkward stupidity on the crowded street.
“Fuck,” I muttered as tears stung behind my eyelids.
“Okay, there?” A baritone met my ears. I sucked in a quick breath when my eyes registered golden skin and a fine dusting of blond starting at a wrist, creeping past a double-banded tattoo, and up to intricately muscled and veined forearms. Jesus, another tattoo peeked out of the rolled sleeves of his dress shirt.
“Are you all right?” The voice spoke again, in my ear this time. My eyes darted up to a chiseled jaw line with a smatter of afternoon stubble before landing on mystifying greens that pierced my own with concern.
He was breathtaking.
I swallowed the ball of nerves tightening my throat as the fog cleared from my brain long enough to answer his question. “Thank you for saving me from a grisly death.” I flipped a hand towards the curb. His quiet laugh fell upon my ears and sent tingles running through every vein in my body. The hair on my arms rose with arousal, my toes curled, and I was acutely aware of my nipples puckering beneath the thin cotton of my wrap dress.
“You’re welcome. Do you need any help?” His heavy hand finally lifted from its residence on my arm and I missed the contact, the nerves aching for his touch, the feel of his skin against mine again.
“Oh, I’ve got it, thanks.” I shuffled the navy bag on my shoulder, straining under the weight, as I cast my eyes to the Starbucks on the corner, hoping I wasn’t too late for my meeting.
“Let me have it.”
My eyes caught his and I fell into their emerald mystery a little as they twinkled with mischief and something else — pure, unadulterated amusement.
His smile deepened as I stared. “Assessing my serial killer likelihood?” One side of his mouth turned up in a grin that funneled molten hot arousal straight between my legs.
“Perhaps.” I passed him my overpacked bag.
“After you.” His grin widened as he opened the door of the coffeehouse. I ducked in, wondering every single step of the way if he was checking out my ass.
“Looks like I missed my appointment,” I groaned after searching the faces at the tables.
“Maybe they’re running late as well?” The stranger pulled a chair out from the nearest table and offered it to me.
“Let me get you something,” he gestured to the line.
“No, it’s okay, thanks.” I smiled when he passed me my bag.
“Let me buy a pretty girl a drink.” He placed a warm palm on my forearm, his breath washing over my skin like a tropical breeze.
I nearly choked on my tongue. “Okay,” I whispered before he turned and my eyes fell on the scuffed leather of his boots and traveled past dark gray trousers that outlined the curve of his ass. My mind struggled to marry the two men together — a beautiful, intriguing, tattooed businessman.
“How did you know I like tea?” I asked a moment later when he sat the hot beverage on the table.
“Hunch.” He shrugged and took a long drink of his own black coffee. “So what kind of client did you miss?” He leaned in, his arms spread across the polished table. My eyes followed licks of black and sapphire cut across the smooth bronze of the underside of his arm. Jesus, I wanted to unwrap him and discover what other artistic renderings lay beneath the tailored attire.
“I just started a business. This was supposed to be my first big client in the city, and I blew it.” I swirled the cup between my hands and breathed in the honey-scented air.
“Doing what exactly?”
“Oh.” An embarrassed smile crept across my lips when my eyes caught his gaze. His dark greens seemed to suck the air straight from my lungs, leaving me breathless, intrigued, and with damp thighs.
“Copywriting and editing. I’ve been doing it for a few years, working online for a few pretty large national corporations, but I thought I’d test the waters out locally. Plus, I really need a job,” I finally ended, a little breathless and a lot embarrassed by my long-winded explanation.
“You actually make money in copywriting?” One thick slash of eyebrow rose in curiosity. What was the color of his skin? Copper? With an olive undertone? A perfect honeyed complexion that was damn distracting, that was for sure.
His throat cleared, shaking me from my thoughts.
“Excuse me?” I mumbled, already forgetting his question.
“Copywriting actually pays the bills?”
Oh. That. “That’s a little forward.” I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “But yes, I mean…I’m…” I searched for the right words, “I have a roommate.” My gaze caught his and I registered the slightest twitch of an eyebrow. “So it doesn’t pay all the bills, but I think it could. Why do you ask?”
“Well, as it would happen, I’ve been looking for someone to help me out.”
“Help you?” I choked on the hot tea.
“I’m a one-man operation at the moment, but I’m in desperate need of an assistant. I like you. Let’s talk more.” His eyes cut to mine before he pulled a business card from his shirt pocket. His palm slid across the table. My thighs twisted in my chair and the inner walls of my pussy throbbed with want. It wasn’t like I’d gone an inordinately long time without sex — why was I reacting so viscerally to him?
He scribbled something on the back of the card and then unfolded his long, lean body from the chair. “I’m glad I bumped into you.” His rich voice tunneled through my personal space and shot straight between my legs, an inferno igniting that I hadn’t even realized had gone dormant until this moment. “I’ve got to run, but thanks for letting me buy you a drink.” He lifted the coffee in his hands and winked.
A small sigh fell from my lips as I registered his every word and each corresponding sensation. My heart thudding, my eyes burning with desire, my palms itching with need, my core clenching and rolling—wanton and ready—so ready for him to take me any way he’d have me.
I inhaled a slow breath, registering seconds later that he was gone and only his scent was left in his wake. Woodsy with a hint of leather and spice. Intoxicating and heady.
“I didn’t even get his name,” I murmured just as my eyes actually registered the business card he’d left, shining back at me from the center of the table. Elegant and crisp glossy black with the name “Hunter Ellis” in a deep blood red, only a phone number in simple white beneath. I swallowed, lifted it in my hands and turned the card, cognizant of his scent still floating on the air that surrounded me.
was written in a quick, vibrant script with what I assumed was a personal cell number scribbled beneath.
My heart throbbed. Sucking in ragged breaths and squirming in my seat, I sat uncaring at all what his offer may be and knowing with every aroused beat of my heart that I would take him up on it.
I PACED THE POLISHED granite floors with a steaming cup of English breakfast in hand the following morning, thinking of Hunter Ellis. He shouldn’t interest me as much as he did, but he was every lovely trigger I possessed—sexy, inked, and aloof. My favorite combination. But I wasn’t in any place to be thinking relationships. This needed to be all business, and if I wanted to get my own place, I’d need a stable income.
I had to call him.
My eyes followed the letters of his deceptively simple name printed on the business card. Hunter Ellis. Such a simple name for the complex man that stood before me yesterday. But I couldn’t let my personal attraction get in the way of a potentially good business opportunity.