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Authors: Alison Kent

With Extreme Pleasure

BOOK: With Extreme Pleasure
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W
ith Extreme Pleasure
W
ith Extreme Pleasure
ALISON KENT

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

www.kensingtonbooks.com

For the readers who’ve loved the SG-5
and connected stories
.

For Kate Duffy who gave me the opportunity
to tell them
.

For Walt who made writing them possible
in ways only he knows.

Prologue

T
he office was like thousands of others looking out over Manhattan, dressed in sleek black marble, brushed chrome, and glass tinted the green of the sea.

There was carpeting done by the Persians, and furnishings done by designers whose names continued to be worth a fortune though their creativity had gone flat.

Or maybe it just seemed that way, aesthetic appreciation one more thing lost to the man staring out the room’s window at the skyline he’d once loved.

He didn’t love anything anymore.

Oliver’s greed and stupidity had decided his own death. Elise first had died of grieving, and later by her own hand found clutching an empty prescription bottle.

The concept of love had been lost to the man next, killed by those two brutal blows.

He no longer loved his money, of which he had more than any man could spend. He no longer loved the car he drove that turned heads left and right.

He turned heads, too, and he no longer cared that he did so, or how much he was loved. The only thing he had left was his power.

What he felt for that was too consuming for a simple four-letter word. And so he left it undefined.

A buzz in his ear brought him out of his trance. He tapped his earpiece to receive the call he’d been waiting for since yesterday’s break sent his team scrambling.

“Yes?” His voice pierced the room’s stillness, a gunshot to his own ears.

“A dead end, man. We got zero,” said the gruff voice on the other end; then it fell silent, the air empty with a hum of nothing.

The man wasn’t surprised by the news. He’d never expected that reaching his goal would be easy, or that he’d accomplish it through obvious channels.

Which was why at the outset he’d explained to the people he employed through a privately funded payroll exactly what needed to happen. They had agreed to see to it.

He supposed if there was anything left that moved him it was their loyalty as much as their consummate skill. His global influence had ensured him the first; his fortune had bought him the second.

Were he to lose it all tomorrow, his team would remain at his side, pledging to him the fruit of their endeavors and going above and beyond.

They did so because he believed in them, because he allowed them free reign. And he would continue to do both—as long as he was never linked to their actions. They made sure no one could.

His motions as automatic as his thoughts, he returned to his desk, tapped the screen of his notebook pc, and brought up his encrypted contact program.

On the keyboard, he pecked out the password, then initiated the call that would set in motion the next step decided on at the beginning of this road.

When the phone connected and was answered, he waited for the two clicks that told him the line was secure.

And then he said, “I want to know everything there is to know about the murder of Kevin Kowalski.”

One

N
ew York City, the greatest city in the world, was a long way from Louisiana’s Cajun country. So far, in fact, that Kingdom Trahan found himself measuring the distance in things other than the miles that separated the Big Apple from his Vermilion Parish home of Bayou Allain. For one thing, there wasn’t a decent boiled crawfish to be found.

It was coming up on April, and he was more than ready to get back to the Gulf Coast for his favorite time of the year. Crawfish, red potatoes, corn on the cob, and Tabasco sauce, with ice cold beer, ESPN, and friends gathered to feast.
Mmm-mmm-mmm
. Life didn’t get any better than that.

But it
did
get a whole lot better than now. While hating most every minute of the last three weeks spent in the northeast corner of the continent, he’d been reminded daily—and uncomfortably—that he was not cut out for the cold. He was all about the heat of the sun. Baking. Sweating. Burning up like bare feet on asphalt. It made him feel alive.

His cousin Simon, and Michelina, Simon’s wife, had been getting a kick out of his shivering and cussing and working to keep his blood from turning to ice. Since he’d been getting one out of watching the newlyweds try to keep their hands to themselves in public, he called it a draw.

King had come to Manhattan for the couple’s elopement party at the Mandarin Oriental. They’d sent out invitations the day they’d flown to Vegas to tie the knot, inviting a couple hundred of their closest friends to celebrate their union the weekend of their return.

Their stealing away to get married had provided a source of society gossip for days. King couldn’t imagine dealing with the paparazzi and the press the way S & M had to do on a regular basis, what with Micky being the international face of Ferrer Fragrances.

And that was the other reason King was here. He’d come to pose for some men’s fragrance ad test shots at Micky’s request. Only days after meeting him, she’d told him he had the perfect look for Ferrer’s new
Trieste
campaign, and made him promise he’d let her see how he looked in print.

He was a white T-shirt, blue denim, and brown leather boots kinda guy. Dealing with photographers and makeup, hair stylists and wardrobe…way too much drama when he could be home on Le Hasard working his drilling rig with the roustabouts he’d hired, or pounding nails with the crew building his house, or even out in the Gulf, shrimping with the fishermen manning the trawler he’d christened
My Precious
.

Finding a treasure of gold coins buried for over a century on his property had gone a helluva long way to helping turn his sorry life around. But it hadn’t done half as much toward setting him on the straight and narrow as hooking up with his cousin again after twenty years spent apart and at odds, the
dumbest
thing he’d ever let happen.

In fact, hanging with Simon and Micky had been the only thing making the trip to New York bearable. It had helped, too, that Simon had been put through the very same photographer, makeup, wardrobe, hairstylist hell. Misery loving company—and that company being his cos—had pretty much been the glue keeping King from walking off the set.

Two weeks ago…

“No, goddamnit. Enough with the hairspray. My eyes feel like I walked into a stack of burning tires.”

King snorted, looked over from the chair where he sat wearing a bib that matched Simon’s, and watched his cousin bat at the persistent stylist flitting around and wielding her can and comb like the stinger end of a wasp.

“Better let her spray, Cos. Else she’ll come after that tail of yours with a blade. Chop you right down to size like Delilah did to poor ol’ Samson.”

“I’m not so sure it wouldn’t make Micky damn happy if she did.” Simon yanked the cape from his neck and shoulders, and surged out of the chair, his shoulder-length hair flying behind him like a black stallion’s mane.

He headed around the makeup stations toward the green screen in front of which the two of them, along with the female models posing with them as sex objects, would be twisted and tortured and turned this way and that until the photographer got what he wanted.

Or what Micky wanted, since Mrs. Ferrer-Baptiste was the one in charge.

Facing forward again as he snickered, King found himself eye to eye with the only stylist who’d had the patience—and the moxie—to work with him. Cady something. Cady Kowalski. Cute girl. Pale. Big brown eyes.

Black hair spiked all over her head like a porcupine plugged ass-first into a live socket. Waifish looking, if waifs could stare a man down until he cried uncle. King didn’t know much about waifs except that this one was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and scared him.

In fact, as he looked on, she bared her canines in what he supposed most folks would call a smile. He did what he could to wave her off, and make himself look good. “Hey, don’t go blaming me for Simon being a dick. I’m sitting here like the royalty I am, haven’t moved a muscle.”

“You turned your head,” Cady growled, pushing out the words from behind her teeth. “I told you to sit still, and you turned your head. Royalty my ass.”

“Well, then. You should’ve fixed up the backside while I was looking away,” he told her, shaking his head wildly and undoing all the styling she’d done before giving her a wink that usually brought women to their knees.

Not this time.

“I should’ve been a nun. Seriously.” She turned away, cleaning the comb she’d been using and straightening all the cans and tubes and bottles of product scattered around her station. “I should’ve joined a convent like my grandmother Josephine promised God she’d make me do. If I never have to deal with another man in my life, it won’t be too soon.”

She closed up her laptop, packed up her bag, continued her one-woman conversation. “Maybe it’s not too late to give the nun thing a try. I can still make my grandmother happy. I can have that surgery, get my virginity stitched back together. I’m pretty short on worldly possessions anyway, and since I really should find a new crash pad before I get kicked to the curb, Tibet’s probably as good a place as any.”

King listened to her mumble and mutter, knowing she was talking to herself and not to him, but he had to interrupt before someone carted her off to the loony bin. “I think you’re confusing a convent with a monastery.”

“Same thing.”

“Nope. Don’t think so. Catholic nuns, Buddhist monks. Worlds apart.”

“Whatever.” She whirled around, jerked the cape he wore from his neck. “Just go. Be beautiful. Paw the models and make them squirm. See if I care.”

He levered himself out of the chair, towered over her, stared down. She had her arms crossed holding herself tight, her gaze focused on her feet. He shouldn’t care, and really he didn’t, but that didn’t stop him from making a loose fist, lifting her chin, and giving her a true blue smile.

“Simon’s a dick. I’m a jerk. Don’t let us get to you, boo. We’ll be outta here in a few days. We’re not worth you shaving that porcupine off your head and wearing nightgowns and sandals for the rest of your life.”

“Thanks, but really. It’s not about you,” she said, stepping away from his touch and walking off, leaving him there with her mirror and his reflection.

And no matter how much King’s life had changed this last year, the man looking back at him had nothing to say.

BOOK: With Extreme Pleasure
9.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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