Authors: Lydia Rowan
Copyright © 2016 by Lydia Rowan
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are invented by the author or used fictitiously. Any similarities to real people, living or dead, businesses and business establishments, places, or events are entirely coincidental. This book is intended for mature audiences only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
hen the lines
between make-believe and reality blur, danger moves in....
ercenary Adam Reins needs a woman
—and fast. The only way to get the intel he needs on a dangerous criminal is to go undercover—on a couples' retreat. But pretending to be engaged to the sweet and sexy Sloan Wakefield might be too much for bad boy Adam to handle.
loan has always been drawn
to Adam, but he never noticed she existed. Playing his fiancee is just a game, and Sloan knows she can’t forget that. Still between Adam’s intense gaze and his increasingly heated caresses, and the boundaries begin to blur.
ut danger is looming
, and if Adam and Sloan don’t work together, their fairy-tale forever might be over before it starts.
ou need a woman
,” Seth Faber said, sounding like he’d solved one of the world’s great mysteries.
“You volunteering?” Adam Reins’s reply was gruff, lacking any warmth, or the vaguest hint of amusement.
Sloan Wakefield wasn’t surprised. Cold and gruff seemed to be Adam’s favorite mode of communication, especially when he was talking to Seth.
But unlike Sloan, who got tongue-tied and frozen pretty much every time she even thought of talking to Adam, Seth plowed on, laughing loudly before he said, “You think you could pull a hot piece like me, old man? I’m way out of your league.”
Adam mumbled something under his breath. Sloan couldn’t hear quite what, but it was something funny if Seth’s even more boisterous laugh was anything to go by.
Sloan slammed the file cabinet closed and moved on to the next one, trying to keep herself intently focused on paperwork and not the conversation unfolding in the room just across the hall.
An effort she knew would be an utter failure.
It wasn’t the subject matter, though the idea of being the woman Adam needed had more than perked her attention.
Perked some other things in her too, but Sloan intended to ignore them, impossible as that might be.
She was sure she wasn’t supposed to hear whatever it was they were talking about anyway, silly as the conversation might sound. Adam and Seth’s conversations almost always centered around their next mission, the details of which Sloan was usually not supposed to know.
Silver Industries was officially a defense contractor, but for as long as she’d worked there, and that was going on a little more than eight years, she’d understood that whatever they were officially called, the men at Silver were mercenaries, and elite ones at that.
Sloan had long ago gotten used to the always animated, often dangerous, and sometimes odd conversations that seemed to come with the territory. She also tried to keep out of the details and mission-specific stuff. They only made her worry about the guys and didn’t really help her do her job, so she ignored them to the greatest extent possible. Would have ignored the current conversation too.
Would have if Adam weren’t there.
there. So he and the conversation, had Sloan’s full attention.
“Ugh,” Sloan said with a groan as she realized she’d misfiled the papers she’d just been working on. She searched the last cabinet she’d been in and didn’t find them, so she went back through three more before she finally found what she’d been looking for. Of course, that also meant that everything she’d worked on for the last fifteen minutes was completely out of order.
Sloan clenched her jaw to stop the sigh of frustration and defeat that threatened to emerge. If Adam was in the office, Sloan needed to take a break. It was clear she wouldn’t get anything done with him around.
No time for that, though, so she grabbed the misfiled documents, put them in their rightful place, and picked up where she had left off, vowing not to make another mistake. Ordinarily, she could file while doing any one of the dozens of other tasks that were her responsibility, all without breaking a sweat.
But a two-word sentence from Adam Reins, and Sloan forgot the alphabet.
She shook her head and went on to the next file.
Her reaction made no sense and was the source of continual confusion. Were it Seth, she might be able to understand. He was handsome, warm, quick with a joke, everything Sloan would have thought she’d be attracted to. Yet, in the two years she had known him, Seth had never inspired anything other than warm, familial fondness.
Adam was a different story.
Former SEAL, current mercenary, he was the undisputed star of all of Sloan’s fantasies. Not pristinely handsome like Seth, but incredibly good-looking if you could get past his intimidating, rough exterior, something Sloan hadn’t completely mastered. He was never in the vicinity of warm, and the only jokes he cracked were barbs at Seth’s expense. In the seven years she had known Adam, despite his gruffness, rawness, he had worked his way into Sloan’s head—and what she wouldn’t give to have him work himself lower.
Adam now inspired a near-feverish need that only intensified as time passed, and made Sloan, who had been struck silent at her first glimpse of him, a bubbleheaded ditz when he was around. Which sucked, because Sloan was many things, gossipy, adventurous, maybe more than a little too fond of gelato, but she was
She knew there was no chance, but that didn’t make the desire go away, didn’t in any way lessen the way one look at Adam left her primed, sex slick and ready to take him.
That undeniable reality was hardened by the fact Adam couldn’t have cared less about her.
She sometimes got a terse nod from him when they passed in the hall, and three Christmases ago, he’d wished her a happy holiday. That was the extent of their interaction.
Sloan knew better than to expect anything else. Adam was so closed off and distant, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of woman he’d be attracted to. Would he like a soft, delicate princess type to protect or a hard-ass warrior that could go toe-to-toe with him? She didn’t know, but in any case, it didn’t matter. Sloan wasn’t either. She was just…Sloan.
Cute face, even if she said so herself, and she thought the strategically placed burnt-bronze streaks in her braids looked great against her brown skin. Plus, she always dressed to show her more than ample curves to their best advantage. She wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but she looked good.
Of course “good” was something Adam, who sometimes reminded her of a jungle cat, laconic but powerful, ready to strike at a moment’s notice, wouldn’t ever look twice at.
If she had any sense at all, she’d have let whatever she felt for Adam die long ago. But how did the saying go? The heart wants what it wants? That saying was true, though in this case, a more appropriate saying would be “the body wants what it wants.” And hers wanted Adam desperately. Something she was reminded of again when he spoke.
“This is bullshit,” he said, his low voice a rumble that made her insides clench.
Get to work, Sloan!
she screamed to herself, to little—no—avail. Adam had her hooked now, and though she made a show of placing the files in their rightful spaces, she was fully tuned in, wanting to hear his voice more, craving the sound of it even if she didn’t care about the words.
He didn’t let her down. “Who the hell runs guns and a bunch of other illegal shit out of a couples’ resort?”
“Tremaine, that’s who,” Seth said, any hint of humor gone from his voice.
Though she couldn’t see them, Sloan knew Seth’s demeanor had taken on a very serious air. He didn’t joke about his work; none of them did, but especially not when it involved Tremaine, former admiral and all-around bad guy.
Lucian Silver, the owner of Silver Industries, had pulled the entire team together to discuss Tremaine, and to her surprise, included her in that meeting. Sloan had been shocked by what she’d learned about the admiral’s dealings and pleased when Lucian had vowed Silver Industries would do all in its power to see him brought down. Tremaine was too evil to let roam loose and allow to continue to terrorize the world.
Sloan heard a chair scrape against the floor, probably Adam standing to stalk around the room, another sight Sloan always looked forward to.
“So I need a woman,” Adam said on an exhaled breath, one that sounded like surrender. Sloan felt her face drooping into a frown and she quickly worked to set it back to a neutral expression. But changing her expression didn’t change the extra kick to her heart when she thought about Adam and his “woman.”
“I can’t think of another way. We can send you in undercover as security, but that’s gonna take time to set up, and who knows if you’d get the job? Plus, you’d be at someone else’s beck and call, which could prove complicated as hell,” Seth said.
“What about an escort?” Adam asked.
She heard the grudging acceptance in his voice now, his tone dour, but Seth just chuckled, apparently happy Adam was agreeing with him.
“I bet you’d love that, and love getting Silver to foot the bill, but it’s a no-go,” Seth said.
“Why not?” Adam asked.
“Untrained. Would get in the way.”
“Anyone I take is going to get in the way and be untrained,” Adam said. “Which is why you need to come up with another plan.”
“Yeah, took you long enough to admit that I’m the brains of this operation,” Seth said.
Sloan knew he didn’t mean it. The guys at Silver worked so well because they were truly a team, those with particular skills and experience stepping into leadership when it was thrust upon them and just as easily stepping back at times when they weren’t best for the job. It was a true collaboration, but Seth wouldn’t miss a chance to take a swipe at Adam, however hollow.
“So what’s your solution, brains?” Adam asked sarcastically.
“Cassandra?” Seth replied, though the confidence and certainty that had been in his voice seconds ago was gone. Even as Seth spoke her name, Sloan could anticipate Adam’s response.
“Don’t know if the boss would cotton to me taking his bride to a couples’ resort.”
“But it’s an ideal solution. She knows the score, and she won’t get in the way…” Seth said before he trailed off.
All that Seth said about Cassandra was true, but there had to be other options. Lucian wouldn’t want her gone, and surely there had to be someone else who fit the bill. Sloan shrugged. Like her.
knew the score and wouldn’t get in the way. She could ask if maybe…
No. Sloan cut that thought off before it could fully form. She was an admin. There was no way—
way—she could pretend to be Adam’s anything. Nope. Couldn’t happen.
“You ask him. Just walk up and say, ‘Hey, Lucian, you mind if I borrow your wife?’” Adam said flatly.
Seth was silent, and though she couldn’t see him, Sloan could easily imagine the expression on his face, could practically see him shaking his head.
“So Cassandra is a no-go as well. Which leaves us back at square one,” Seth said.
“Come up with another plan, then,” Adam said.
“Adam, there is no other plan. You need to get to that resort, see what’s what. You have to go as a guest.”
“And I can’t just go alone?”
“It’s a couples’ resort. You know, for couples. You can’t go alone,” Seth said.
As easily as she had been able to imagine Seth’s expression, Sloan could picture Adam’s. Could see the way his face shut down, expression daring anyone to go against him as well. Seth was one of the few who would.
Sloan certainly wouldn’t. In fact, her mode of dealing with Adam was to cut and run before she ever had to actually talk to him.
“So, genius,” Adam said, “what’s the solution?”
Adam liked to needle Seth for his intelligence, and from what Sloan understood, he had graduated at the top of his class from an Ivy League school, but instead of going into the corporate world had gone into the Navy. Adam liked to give him a hard time about that, but that he even wasted the breath it took to tease him spoke volumes about Adam’s respect for him.
The room was silent as long seconds stretched by, but after a few minutes, Seth snapped his fingers.
“I got it,” Seth said.
Sloan paused, listening, far too curious about Seth’s next plus-one suggestion for Adam.
“Sloan,” Seth yelled. “Can you come in here?”
Sloan jumped, her mind immediately going back to that thought she had squashed, the one that had her playing Adam’s woman. She reminded herself that couldn’t and wouldn’t happen and then shook herself and refocused on reality.
She gripped the folder she held like a touchstone, her heart thundering in her chest. Seth’s calling her had nothing to do with that conversation. He simply needed her for one of the dozens of other things she was responsible for.
“Just a minute,” she finally called, trying to keep her voice calm, though it went a little bit high-pitched.
After she managed to loosen her fingers, she set the folder down on her worktable and brushed her hands down her skirt, preparing herself to go into the room.
Seth would be there to try and buffer her from Adam. She had to hope he would be sufficient. She was always acutely aware of Adam even if there were dozens of men in the room, but with just him and one other, she knew that effect would be intensified.
If given the chance, she would probably make a fool of herself, give away some of what she was thinking. She’d try hard to stay even-keeled, though. It was enough to have to deal with what she knew would be his sharp, assessing gaze. It wouldn’t do for her to make an idiot of herself on top of that.
“Take your time, Sloan,” Seth called.
Sloan smiled. None of the men liked to wait, but Seth was especially impatient. She had half a mind to wait a little longer just to prove a point, but she was pretty anxious to hear what he wanted, so she plastered a smile on her face and then began to walk toward the conference room across the hall.
“You sign checks around here, Seth?” Sloan asked.
“You know I don’t,” Seth replied.
“Then you don’t get to issue orders,” she said.
The words trailed off as she walked through the conference room door, and of its own volition, her gaze centered on Adam, taking him in.
He stood, as he seemed to always do, facing the window and looking down at the Seattle streets below. His broad, muscled back was the first thing she saw, then the harsh cut of his jaw, always covered with stubble, his heavily muscled arms behind his back, crossed at the wrists.
When she thought of Adam, which was far, far,
too often, he was always like this, a strong, solid, living statue, coldly beautiful.
She managed to tear her gaze away before too much time passed to look over at Seth, who smiled at her warmly.
“You rang?” she said.
“Where will you be in three days?” he asked.
Sloan frowned, trying to think. “Umm. Here?” she said, though her words lacked confidence and were more a question than an answer.