So…you’ve seen the cover. Want to take a peek inside? Of course you do! As a special treat, I’ve got the first chapter of Prey for you to enjoy below!
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One look, and I know I’ll have her. One taste, and I’m insatiable. One wrong move, and I’ll lose her forever.
I’ve never met a woman who was worth the time and hassle of a relationship. I’ve got my hands full leading the family.
Nya, though…she’s not just a pretty face and smokin’ body. She’s a woman who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to take it. After one night with her, I need more.
But the next morning, someone tries to kill me. At first I wonder if she set me up, know that I’m so gone for her it might have worked. But her fear when she finds out who I am, what I do, proves to me that she’s a target too.
And now the ones who want me dead are about to learn just how far I’ll go to protect what’s mine. One look, and I know I’ll have her.
I let my weary body rest against the dark leather of the booth and sighed audibly, happy to finally be off my feet, feet that I surreptitiously slipped out of the four-inch heels I’d chosen this morning.
It had been an impulsive move. I’d known today would be long, but I’d been excited and wanted to look the part. I was paying the price now, though, the heels having done their part to give my legs an illusion of greater length but at the same time being hell on my feet.
To my relief, I was out of them now, and the bar was dark enough that I doubted anyone would notice. If they did, well, I didn’t care. I’d worked toward this day for what felt like forever.
I would force myself to enjoy it.
I took a sip of my ice water, appreciating the feel of the heavy glass in my hand. It was expensive, but so was everything in M. Lounge, the upscale bar attached to an equally upscale hotel. Dark wood with subtle pops of metal, all arranged in a tasteful and timeless design that had a strong, almost masculine edge while still maintaining a welcoming vibe.
Nice as it was, it wasn’t the kind of place I’d usually go to. On those occasions when I went out, my friends and I usually hit one of the trendy clubs with open spaces and loud music and frilly drinks.
But I hadn’t been in the mood for that tonight.
I hadn’t been in the mood for company either. I didn’t understand that last part. My friends, most especially my best friend Jade, would have loved to celebrate my promotion with me. When they found out I hadn’t told them my good news immediately, I’d hear about it.
But I’d made the right call, knowing that I wouldn’t be good company tonight, though I hadn’t been able to put my finger on why.
This promotion I’d worked so hard for, the money that came with it, should have made me happy, or at least satisfied.
It did neither.
Instead, I felt wistful, almost disappointed. I’d hoped this time would be different, but no such luck it seemed. I worked and worked, hoped that maybe the next raise, the next promotion would finally make me feel different. But it never did. I never did.
I frowned, took another sip of my water, frowned deeper. Water wasn’t cutting it tonight.
I nodded at one of the bartenders, who quickly made his approach. After I placed my order, I leaned back, trying to ignore the melancholy threatening to overtake me. There was no place for it, and wasting time on anything other than happiness was stupid.
I was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. So I’d have my drink, then call my best friend. She’d grumble, but she’d show up and make sure I didn’t spend what was supposed to be a happy occasion alone.
The words of thanks that would have come out automatically died in my throat. I’d caught the figure out of the corner of my eye, but hadn’t really looked, expecting the young, friendly bartender who had taken my order.
I’d been wrong.
The first thing I noticed about the man was his dark eyes, eyes that were a shade of blue and not the dark brown I’d thought upon first look. The second was the almost predatory gleam in those eyes. Instead of pushing me away, scaring me off, that look sparked a warm feeling low in my belly, a feeling that left me far too exposed and at the same time wanting more.
My gaze dropped, moving over this stranger’s chiseled face, his cheeks lean, his jaw strong. His lips, not full but not thin, were the only hint of softness on his face, and instantly, I imagined what it would be like to kiss his hard jaw, how it would contrast with the softness of his lips.
Anxious to redirect my thoughts, I looked lower, found deliciously broad shoulders covered by a suit jacket that looked to be made just for them. Through the open jacket, I could see the fine shirt that covered a strong, muscled chest, trim waist, and then lower to solid legs.
He was breathtaking, handsome, though his physical exterior was nothing compared to the strength, power, and intensity he wore like his suit. I lifted my eyes, blinked, trying to maintain some dignity, and pretend that I hadn’t just eye-fucked the man.
“I think you have the wrong table,” I said in a voice that was polite, yet icy, one that didn’t at all show how the man had managed to throw me off.
Of course, as he lifted his lips in a small smile that went away just as quickly, I got the distinct impression I hadn’t been as successful as I’d hoped.
“Balor whiskey?” he asked, his smooth, deep voice flowing over me like velvet.
“Yes, that’s what I ordered,” I replied.
“Then I have the right table,” he said.
I felt my mouth twisting into a smile. I quickly wiped it away, but I didn’t break his gaze. Something told me he would take that as a sign of weakness, and for reasons I couldn’t explain, it was important to me that this man not see me as weak.
Instead, I said, “And what makes you think that?” I sounded a little—a lot— flirtier than I’d intended, but I couldn’t take that back now, so I did my best to keep a neutral expression on my face as I awaited his response.
“I spotted you the instant you walked in. And when I heard your drink order, I knew I had to come over,” he said.
Then, in the next breath, he folded his huge frame into the booth next to me, placed the square-cut glass in front of me, and placed the other he held in front of himself.
His thigh grazed mine, and if I moved even an inch, we’d be touching from hip to chest, something I liked the idea of far more than I should have.
Still, I didn’t know this man, and had no intention of getting to know him, despite his apparent wishes otherwise. With a great deal of reluctance but even more will, I moved away, putting a few inches between us, though he remained close enough that I could feel the heat rolling off his body.
He knew exactly what I was doing. Something that was confirmed when he locked his dark eyes with mine, not even trying to hide the flash of knowing amusement that momentarily lit his gaze. He didn’t look away, not even as he lifted the glass in front of him and took a sip of the amber liquid.
“My drink order? What was so intriguing about that?” I asked.
Speaking was probably a bad idea, was definitely uncharacteristic of me. I wasn’t exactly cautious, more like a skeptic, and most days I wouldn’t have engaged someone who approached me like he had. But then again, no one quite like him had ever approached me, and I was intrigued.
Because this stranger had my attention, seemed to have no trouble throwing me off my game. I’d have to be careful.
“A beautiful woman who drinks my brand of whiskey. I couldn’t resist,” he said.
He took another sip and then put the glass down and nodded toward the identical one in front of me. “Change your mind?”
The words sounded like a challenge, and I never backed away from those, much as logic might dictate I should.
“I don’t make it a habit of taking drinks from strangers,” I replied, putting a little bite into my voice.
Bite that he completely ignored.
Instead, he shifted, covering the scant few inches that had separated us. So close that I could smell his spicy, masculine cologne, the whiskey on his breath.
Without breaking my gaze, he lifted his hand, and on instinct, I moved, offering my own. My entire body sprang to life when we touched, and for a moment, his lids dropped lower, the reaction telling me he’d felt something similar. He recovered quickly, though, his face returning to that amused yet neutral expression that had been there before.
“Patrick Murphy.” He smiled, the intensity in his eyes taking my breath away. “Now we’re not strangers.”
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The blackout curtains didn’t allow a ray of light to peek through, but I knew it was morning before I even opened my eyes. I hadn’t slept past six thirty in years, and today proved no exception it seemed. Though, if I was going to sleep in, this would have been a perfect time.
Eyes still closed, I stretched, sinking into the mattress that was the perfect combination of soft and firm, sighed as I thought about how that description applied to Patrick Murphy.
In an instant, my breath quickened, a warmth sparking between my legs and spreading through my body.
That shouldn’t have been possible, not when I’d come more times than I could count, the last not more than two hours ago if my memory served me right. Patrick had kissed me everywhere, soft, coaxing kisses that had left me breathless, and then he’d ridden me hard, fucking me relentlessly until I’d cried through climax after climax.
The perfect combination of soft and firm.
I felt a lazy, satisfied smile spread across my face, thinking it had been a long time since I’d felt like that, realizing that I’d never felt the way Patrick Murphy had made me feel. I shifted, made contact with the cold, empty sheets.
A Patrick Murphy who was apparently gone.
My eyes popped open then, and even though I quickly turned on the light to confirm he was gone, the cold sheets and empty bed, a subtle bite of emptiness had left me with no question Patrick was no longer here.
Odd, especially since I’d known him for only hours, but I felt a connection when he was there, a faint, aching absence when he was gone.
I wanted to roll my eyes at my own misplaced sentimentality. We’d shared a night, and I couldn’t make it more than it was. These thoughts about connection and all that crap were silly. It also reminded me why I didn’t do one-night stands, all too aware of how quickly I got attached.
When I stood, my thighs strained in protest, probably from the hours they’d spent on Patrick’s shoulders, around his waist, holding me up as he’d fucked me from behind…
The discomfort had been worth it, and so were those errant thoughts about connection. In fact, they were a small price to pay for that mind-blowing experience.
An experience that was over it seemed.
I quickly looked around the room and saw no sign of Patrick, nothing that would indicate he’d even been here.
A moment’s disappointment flashed through me, but I pushed it down. What, had I expected him to stick around? I wouldn’t have been opposed to a round two, or seven, technically, but it was probably for the best that he’d left, given me a chance to recover.
I headed toward the en-suite bathroom, gathering my clothes as I went. I considered staying to shower in the enticing-looking luxury bathroom, but I didn’t, deciding instead to go home.
A few minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom as put together as I could be. Though I was still somewhat disappointed that Patrick had left, that disappointment was only a slight bitterness at the end of decadent perfection. Probably for the best. Last night had been perfect. This morning would help me keep perspective. Besides, the evening before had been somewhat melancholy, but after those hours with him, I felt great.
I reached for the brushed chrome doorknob, again noticing the small details that made this room luxury. I’d been preoccupied by my companion last night, far too much to pay attention to the details, but when Patrick had taken me directly to the penthouse suite, I’d been impressed.
A reaction that had flown directly out of the window when, after he’d locked the door, Patrick seized me, made sure I paid attention to nothing but him.
Smiling as I remembered that, I opened the door and stepped out into the suite’s living area.
Mesh sunscreens covered the windows, but the morning light filled the room, shone off the wood floors that were polished to a high glow, gave the view outside the windows a perfect highlight.
I didn’t notice any of it.
Couldn’t, not when my gaze landed on Patrick.
He was still here.
I was startled to see him, mostly because I’d spent so much time trying to convince myself it was fine that he’d left without saying good-bye. But that surprise was little more than an afterthought. Almost all of my attention was focused on him, on the pure, unadulterated joy that surged through me when I looked at him.
I was surprised he was here, more pleased than I could say. And, of course, there was that instant, blazing attraction, one that was only that much more intense now that I knew what it was like to touch him, have him touch me.
For a few moments as I had dressed, I’d wondered if I had remembered wrongly. Maybe my mind was exaggerating the width of his shoulders, how impossibly tall he was and strong he looked.
But in that moment, I knew that if anything, I had underestimated his physical presence. Even with his back turned, I had no doubt as to his strength, knew that he was everything I remembered.
And when he turned, locked eyes with mine, I breathed in sharply, my nipples pulling tight, my stomach lit with that light, almost jittery feeling that could have been nerves but that I knew was desire. One look, and I thought I would melt.
Last night, his eyes had been dark, but in the morning light I could see the blue hues that shot through them, that attention and intelligence that highlighted them.
“I thought you were gone.”
I wanted to sink into the floor when I heard the happiness in my voice, knew that my pleasure at his presence was completely undeniable.
He smiled, the expression fleeting, not lasting more than a second, but giving me the most glorious high.
“Thought I’d go without saying good-bye?” he asked, walking toward me.
“Some people dislike an awkward morning after,” I said. I would have counted myself among them, but Patrick hadn’t struck me as the sort. I’d thought I’d been wrong, had misjudged him, but now I knew that wasn’t the case, something he confirmed when he spoke next.
“Does this feel awkward?” he asked, coming to stand in front of me.
It didn’t, I realized, and I shook my head, which made him smile again.
I laughed, looking away to avoid the curious emotion that began to grow in my chest. “This is not at all how I imagined my walk of shame.”
It was Patrick’s turn to laugh. “Glad I can keep you on your toes. Shall we?” he said, offering his arm.
No discussion of seeing each other again, but I bit that touch of disappointment back and hooked my hand in the crook of his arm.
Together, we left the room and walked toward the elevator, the journey short because there seemed to be only four suites on the floor.
I stood next to Patrick as we waited for the elevator, risked glancing at him, chided myself for doing so, and vowed to be more like him, cool, unaffected. I wanted to take a deep, cleansing breath, try to regain some of the balance that Patrick so easily stole.
But that wasn’t an option, not when he stood sentinel next to me, nothing in his posture or expression suggesting he felt anything at all, especially not the insane, over-the-top attraction that I did. So, I simply blinked, held still, tried to keep myself impassive. When the elevator dinged, I ignored the tinge of sadness at the proof that our time was over and instead focused on the opening doors.
Frozen when my gaze collided with the barrel of a gun.