Check out the first two chapters below of Prey below. Enjoy!
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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.
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One moment I was staring at the elevator doors, trying to talk myself out of taking Nya back to the suite for yet another round. The next, instinct took over.
I’d been perfectly calm, if more than a little distracted by my companion, but as the elevator doors had started to slide open, I was instantly uneasy. And when I saw the barrel of the gun, I sprang into action.
I didn’t look at Nya. Instead, I kept my gaze on the elevator, saw that there were two men in the car, both with weapons in their hands. Shotguns. Not good for precision but they were brute force weapons that would take a target down fast. And indiscriminately.
Not even a second later, I pulled Nya toward me and started to run. Almost instantly, the sound of the shotgun blast filled the formerly peaceful hallway. I didn’t look back, though, and instead kept moving, dragging Nya behind me.
My first impulse was to stay, fight. It would be tougher without a gun, but I could handle the two in the elevator. They had valuable information I needed, like who they were, and, more importantly, who had sent them.
It went against everything I’d been taught, everything I believed, to run, but with Nya to think about, I couldn’t risk it.
When we rounded the corner what felt like an eternity later but had in actuality been less than three seconds, I spared a precious moment to look at her.
Her eyes were wide, the shock in them intensifying with each second, but she was moving.
That would have to do for now.
I headed toward the Exit sign, pulled on Nya’s arm when she tried to go toward it.
Our pursuers were behind us, and that they hadn’t shot again told me that they were only going to do so when they were close to their target, which I had no other choice than to assume was me.
The stairwell was obvious and would leave us with no viable exit, so we couldn’t go there. So I continued on toward the service entrance. I hurriedly punched in the code, felt a moment’s victory when the red light on the keypad turned green. I wasted no time pushing open the heavy metal doors and dragging Nya through them.
Behind the doors was a freight elevator and a second set of service stairs.
The elevator would be quicker, but offered no exit.
“The stairs,” I whispered gruffly.
Nya didn’t speak, but she kicked off those beautiful but impractical heels and started moving. In another circumstance, I would have smiled. Instead, I simply tightened my hand on hers.
Down we went, me going as fast as I dared.
Nya didn’t make a sound, kept up as best she could, and my esteem for her rose. With most, I would have expected tears, histrionics, but save her wild-eyed look, there was nothing.
Admirable, especially since she didn’t seem like the type who was comfortable with being shot at.
Speaking of shots…
I looked back in time to see the plaster shatter where it was hit by the bullet, long enough to see that my pursuers followed and were getting closer. I looked to Nya and saw her eyes even wider, fear displacing the shock, though that would be back soon enough.
I ran even faster, and as we went down yet another flight of stairs, I yanked the fire alarm. Almost instantly, a loud, wailing screech filled the hallway.
My brother Michael was going to be pissed about this, but desperate times and all that. After we went down two more flights, I again keyed in the code to the service entrance and pulled Nya into the guests’ hallway. Groggy, confused-looking patrons began to emerge and fill the corridor, the low murmur of voices and questions of what was happening animating the hall.
I didn’t listen or join in, though. Instead, I kept moving, pulled Nya down to the opposite end of the hallway. I froze when the stairwell door opened, not sure what was on the other side, but relaxed when Eden, the hotel’s assistant general manager stepped out. I kept out of her line of sight but watched as she addressed the crowd.
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“Can I have your attention? There’s no official report of a fire, but the alarm system has been activated. Those of you who are able, please make your way down the stairs and to the lobby. If you need assistance, let me know, and I’ll see that you’re escorted down.”
Eden’s calm voice and clear directions got the crowd moving, and though there were still murmurs and confusion, most of the guests began to head down the stairs. I made sure Nya and I mingled with the gathering crowd that got larger and larger as we went.
It was a gamble, but one I had to take. The shooters had been conservative with their shots, which told me they weren’t interested in drawing too much attention. So the safest place for me and Nya was in that crowd.
As we moved, I noticed that she still held my hand tight, and risked looking at her. Some of the fear had waned, but as I’d thought, the shock was creeping in. Before I could stop myself, I squeezed her hand. She looked surprised for a moment but then squeezed back. That small gesture gave me some measure of reassurance, reassurance I hadn’t even known I needed until this moment.
I couldn’t say what had made me try to reassure her, why I was so happy that she’d done the same. But whatever the reason, I was glad to see her comforted, glad that I could help hold off the panic, if only for a little while longer.
But I still had other matters to attend to, so I focused on getting us the hell out of here. By now, the shooters would have ditched their weapons to try blending in with the crowd just as I was. But they knew who I was, while I had no such advantage. And even in these tight confines, a dedicated person could get close enough to shoot me, stab me, and all without anyone being the wiser, so I had to stay on alert until we got out of here.
A process that seemed to be taking for fucking ever, but that was probably just my own anxiousness talking. The crowd was moving steadily, and I breathed a little easier with each floor we descended.
When we finally spilled out into the lobby, a fraction of the tightness that had been squeezing my chest loosened.
The lobby was rapidly filling, guests pouring out of the stairwells and toward the front door.
Still holding Nya’s hand, I went to the farthest door toward the covered valet entrance.
That would be our escape.
I moved toward it deliberately, not pausing for anything. When I finally burst through the door, heard the sounds of the city around me, I felt even more relief. Too much relief would be premature, especially since we weren’t out of danger yet, but we were getting closer.
I made my way toward the valet stand. It had been left unattended and unsecured, something I would make sure Michael addressed with the staff. But first…
I grabbed the key for what I knew to be one of the fastest cars money could buy and clicked the Unlock button. I followed the sound until I spotted the car and moved toward it urgently but not in a way that would draw much attention.
Once I reached it, I pushed Nya into the passenger side and quickly rounded to the driver’s side. In less than a minute, we were gone.
I glanced back at the rearview mirror and watched as the hotel faded from view. Then, I looked at my passenger, again trying to gauge her reaction.
Still calm, but her edges were beginning to fray. And I was about to make that much, much worse.
When we were a couple miles from the hotel, I stopped in a nearly abandoned parking lot, put the car in Park, and then turned to look at her.
She blinked, her long lashes framing beautiful brown eyes that, even now, were beginning to suck me in. But I couldn’t be deterred, not yet. So I steeled myself, watched her. Waited, and used those long seconds to study her.
At first she looked confused.
“Why aren’t you driving?” she finally asked.
Her voice was still sexy, feminine, deep, but unlike last night, there was uncertainty in it, almost fear, driven by what had happened before no doubt, but also by what was happening now. Still, she was surprisingly calm, or at least doing a good job of pretending to be.
I didn’t respond, and she pulled her brows together, the skin between them furrowing. The impulse to smooth that furrow, kiss her soft skin, came at me like a freight train, but I resisted, kept my eyes on hers and stayed silent.
I could see her calculating, puzzling, wondering. And I saw the exact moment that her confusion changed to fear.
It was subtle at first, in one blink, her eyes questioning, in the next, unease creeping into her gaze.
A delayed reaction, I was sure, but one I had been expecting. As calm as she’d been, as much as she’d held it together, there was no way she could look down the barrel of a gun and not react. Not unless I had been very wrong about her. And that break, the fear that was creeping into her gaze was my cue to find out.
Because scared people were honest, and her honesty was the only thing that would get her out of this unscathed.
I leaned closer, saw that she wanted to recoil but didn’t, and I felt a little bit of pride for her at that. She really was tough, but that toughness wouldn’t help her now, not if she couldn’t convince me.
I waited a second longer, and then, eyes never leaving hers, I asked the question that would determine whether the beautiful, passionate Nya Henderson lived or died.
“Nya, did someone hire you to kill me?”