She’s rough and tumble in court. At least, that’s what the newspapers say.
Smokejumper Sawyer doesn’t believe he’s cut out for dating but when he meets Reese, a defense attorney, all bets are off.
She’s dealt with her fair share of monsters in and out of the courtroom. Upon meeting Sawyer, she knows he’s one of the good guys, even with his dark past.
Sawyer has a way of seeing her pain, her desires, and her needs, giving her what only he can. Can he protect her from the dangers that surface?
Publisher’s Note: This action adventure romance offers suspense, danger, mystery, steamy scenes and power exchange elements.
Bust: Intense period of lightning activity
Burnout: Fire set to burn areas between control lines
Slash: Debris left after logging
Zulies: Missoula Smokejumpers
Dark. Dangerous. Delicious.
Why were the words circling in her mind when she should be finalizing preparations for court? Reese Winton dropped her head into her hands, allowing an anguished groan to slide past her dry lips. Exhaustion was the name of the game, not preparation for yet another long day, a destructive day in her mind. Her eyes fell on the inch-thick case file and she grimaced. There were far too many days she loathed her job. Maybe just this case. Oh, who was she kidding?
She was pining away for a man who was exciting, handsome and dominating, but he would never belong to her. She was beginning to wonder why they’d developed any kind of relationship in the first place. No, this wasn’t an actual relationship. He’d pursued her relentlessly until she’d given in, managing to peel away her mask if only slightly.
No one would ever know the real woman inside.
Exhaling, she took a gulp of water and willed herself to continue working. Everything came down to the final statement and normally, she would be on a high, reveling in the full understanding she would win the case, save the poor, innocent soul, a person falsely accused of a heinous crime.
Only this time, the supposed innocent man was a dangerous creature. Her innate instinct had been screaming to run away from the case since day one. There was zero possibility of that happening. If only her peers knew she’d never wanted to become a defense attorney. Karma had a way of altering her life. At least she’d had some carnal entertainment, keeping her anxious for an entirely different reason.
Danger seemed to follow her everywhere, but the concept of dark and delicious danger was certainly more enticing. Her nipples hardened at the thought. Why was she thinking about sex when she had so damn much work to do?
She stole a quick glance at her watch, not even flinching seeing the late hour. Every day had been the same since accepting, no, being told she was handling the Tatum defense. In her mind, the freak was guilty. Guilty! You bet, he was a murderer, a serial killer who enjoyed torturing his victims.
But no one believed he could be so evil.
She knew in her gut what the highly intelligent, soft spoken asshole was capable of. She’d spent far too much time alone with the man. Man? Hell, monster. Allowing a long exhale, she fingered the file. The pictures were damning. Disgusting. Every glossy depicted his method of madness, a jagged knife cutting away every beautiful feature, digging into his victim’s skin. Gouging out their eyes, as if they’d seen too much.
Even the fires set at every scene, what experts called an amateurish attempt at torching the evidence, was nothing more than attempting to purify the women. At least according to the psychologist her office had consulted with. They were looking for a killer with an ax to grind. The prosecution was certain they had their man. And so was she. Snorting, she flipped through another set of pictures, swallowing the acid rising from her nauseated stomach. Her defense? That Walker Tatum had lived a privileged life, incapable of committing such appalling crimes. Shivering, she smacked the file closed and shoved back her chair. The clang of the metal edged back slamming against the particle board credenza gave her a laugh.
A tiny office in an ugly and bleak building, complete with cheap furniture. A salary that barely kept her bills paid. And working with some of the most horrific individuals anyone could stand facing. You bet her law degree from Emory University in Georgia was doing her a hell of a lot of good. Her mind was too muddled for this shit.
She grabbed her briefcase and keys, snagging her purse as she headed for the door to her office. After a glance back at her disheveled desk, she shook her head then turned out the light.
Hearing her office phone, she froze. A late night call didn’t necessarily mean there was an emergency, but she had no desire to find out for certain. Besides, everyone who was important had her cell phone number, including her boss. She took two steps out into the hall, hesitating as the phone kept ringing. And ringing. Why the hell wouldn’t it go to voice mail? Debating, she listened to three additional rings before storming toward her desk, almost yanking the entire phone onto the floor in her effort to answer.
There was no recording or voice on the other end of the line. There was no breathing or crackling from a bad connection. There was nothing but silence. Utter. Dead. Silence.
Slamming down the receiver quickly, she stuck her finger into her mouth, chewing on the tip and half expecting the ringing would start again. She waited for a full two minutes then issued a garbled and very nervous laugh. Just a robo-call like dozens she received at her house. Backing out of her office, this was the first time she actually wished she’d applied for a gun permit.
She was ready for a very tall drink and a nice soak in the tub. Turning out the main light on the floor, she decided on taking the stairs. The slight exercise might rid her mind of the vicious demon. Right. Demons had been with her for too many years. No chance of them scampering away now.
The moment she walked out into the parking lot, the sticky humidity created several beads of sweat on her upper lip. The early August heat had been oppressive as of late. And she thought moving to Missoula, Montana would mean cooler weather. Even the summer storms had increased. Another reason she was always on edge. Thunderstorms were a nasty reminder. She blew a swath of hot air, the action barely moving the strands of long hair that had fallen out of her carefully coifed bun. Even her silk blouse was sticking to her chest and arms, creating a blanket of intense heat.
A chuckle bubbled up from her throat as she hoisted her heavy briefcase to her other hand, fidgeting to wrap her fingers around the square plastic key fob. As usual, she was the last one to leave the office, or as she’d like to call the place, the dungeon. Well, at least she had a job. Finding one had been difficult enough.
“Shit!” Stopping short, she twisted and looked back at the building. The bastard owner was always trying to cut costs, but turning off the outside lights? She made a mental note to make a formal complaint as she made a bee line for her car. The sound of her way-too high heels clipping against the asphalt was the only noise on the stifling night. Even the main street, which was only two blocks away, seemed deserted. Not that this section of Missoula hopped at night. Cheap and chichi was the name of Roger Gant and Associates.
Only the man couldn’t afford actual associates.
She awkwardly wiped a bead of sweat as it trickled down the side of her face, determined to keep her pace. You’re just jumpy. Nothing more. Keep walking.
The sound was metallic, metal against metal and she froze, but only for a few seconds. She’d been down this road before, fear consuming every rational thought. Not tonight. She was through with vivid nightmares, swallowing up what she often considered to be the last of her rational mind. Peace. That’s all she wanted. Swallowing hard, she picked up her pace, pointing the key fob at her car. The blinking headlights gave her some comfort.
Reese could swear she heard footsteps behind her. Her entire body began to shake but she kept her cool, taking long strides. Almost to the car. Almost.
Suddenly, high beam headlights were flipped on, the bluish blinding glow creating an arc all around her. She heard footsteps coming toward her at a brisk pace. “No! Get away from me!”
“Reese Winton.” The voice was masculine and demanding, deep and husky with an almost lurid drawl.
Refusing to stop, she raced the last few steps, trying to grab the handle just as the footsteps sounded closer, moving directly behind.
He is here!
“Miss Reese Winton. You’re under arrest.”
Panicking, she turned around to confront the would-be attacker, shielding her eyes from the wretched light. “Who are you?”
“Reese Winton. I’m placing you under arrest for hindering the prosecution.”
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Her fear combining with anger, she took a step back.
“Drop your things and place your hands behind your back.”
She refused to allow him to see how terrified she was. This couldn’t be happening. “And what if I don’t?”
“Then your punishment will be severe, young lady. I suggest you do as you’re told.”
Seeing the set of handcuffs in the man’s hand, she debated her options. There was no way she could run given his close proximity, no one to scream out to for help. She was his prisoner. “Are you going to read me my rights?”
“Absolutely. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can or will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney.”
Dropping her things, she turned around, placing her hands behind her back. She was resigned to his authority. She bit back a moan, worried that someone might hear.
Wincing the second the steel bands were snapped around her wrists, she had no concept of what she was facing. Anxiety rushed into every cell and she did everything in her power to maintain her composure. She was aware he’d grabbed her briefcase and purse before yanking her away from her car, heading in the direction of another vehicle. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because you need to learn a lesson.”
His words were dominating, almost forceful and for a few seconds, she allowed the little girl inside to pant out of apprehension, even excitement. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” He swung open a door, placing his hand on her head as he helped her ease onto the seat. When she was inside, he leaned down, his expression stern. Foreboding. “You defied orders. Again.”
“But I-” The door was slammed with enough force the sedan shook. Trembling, she shifted back and forth, wiggling her wrists. There was no way out of this. She was going to have to face her punishment like a good girl. Slumping against the seat, she wanted to ask questions, pry information out of her captor, but she realized he would remain silent, performing his duty as required. When he sped off, jerking the SUV around her Chevy Cruze, her single luxury, she cringed.
If only her fellow associates could see her now.
He remained silent, yet she fumed, struggling to the point the metal dug into her skin. Only his eyes gazing into the rearview mirror reflected his thoughts, powerful and dominating.
She became lost in his gaze, but with every ounce of strength, she tried to pull away, to fight the urge to lash out. In her mind this was nothing more than a tool, one to keep her on edge, allow her emotions to rush to the outer fringes. He knew exactly what would drive her to the brink. She clenched her eyes shut, refusing to give him the satisfaction of enjoying her incarceration.
Minutes later, she knew he’d stopped the vehicle, arriving at the destination. Whatever was going to occur from here would no doubt be challenging. The man had another thing coming if he truly believed she’d succumb to his tyranny. When the door was opened, and she was tugged onto the pavement, she squared her shoulders, pushing away her emotions.
“Your penance begins soon,” he stated, his steps laced with purpose.
“Whatever,” she muttered under her breath and heard the catch in his breath. She would pay for the single word.
After unlocking the door, he whisked her inside, immediately leading her down a set of stairs, the light shadowed.
He was no doubt trying to unnerve her, well, the man had another thing coming. Exhaling, he opened a massive steel door, ushering her inside and immediately unlocking the handcuffs. “Do you understand why you’re here?”
“Because I didn’t follow the rules.” She answered the question with disdain in her tone of voice, a sneer on her face.
“Turn around,” he commanded.
Reese remained where she was.
“I said. Turn. Around.” His voice was almost guttural.
Sniffing, she did as she was told, shifting ever so slowly until she faced him. The way his eyes flashed, almost gleaming in the muted light created a series of tingles dancing down her spine. “Now what?” This was an entirely new level of play and very unexpected.
“Remove your clothes. All of them.”
Licking around her mouth, she debated her actions as he folded his arms, the expression even more authoritative. He had the upper hand. She adored their games, relished the way that he took her, using her body, the desire building to a combustible roar. He was pushy, even obsessive with her, no doubt a product of his profession, his level of influence on almost everyone he knew.
“If I am forced to repeat myself, I’ll use extreme measures.”
“Yes, sir.” Her eyes never leaving his, she slid her suit jacket from her shoulders, wiggling until the tight material was crumpled on the floor. After kicking off her heels, she realized just how fragile her position was, but she was committed to following his orders. Trust. Yes, she trusted him, although she often wondered why. She slipped her arms behind her waist, unfastening her skirt and shimmying the thin material down her hips. The look on his face was carnivorous and she could barely maintain her role. He seemed far more dangerous tonight, villainous as if taking a play from her actual life. Dear God, excitement tingled every nerve.
He exhaled and fingered his mouth, moving his index finger back and forth as if ticking down time.
She knew him to be an impatient as well as forceful man, a dominant who achieved every goal, obtained exactly every desired item no matter the odds.
And he wanted her. Every. Naked. Inch.
“You tease me with your body,” he managed.
“Yes, sir. Yet, I know what you require.”
His laugh was laced with danger, seductive and provocative. “I know you do. You’re as intelligent as you are beautiful, even though your penchant for punishment can be daunting, but damn if my mouth isn’t watering.”
And she was shivering all over, her pussy clenching. This was their game, fantasies created by their respective dark cravings, the kind of kink few could tolerate and fewer still would ever understand. He was her Achilles heel, intense hunger fueling her dreams. She nodded and lowered her head out of respect as she unbuttoned her blouse, her fingers trembling.
When she stood in a matching lace bra and G string, he huffed before walking around her in a circle, his polished wingtips clipping against the hard cement floor.
With every step she trembled. He had utter control over her body as well as her mind. At least for now. They weren’t lovers, not in the traditional sense, but the shared moments allowed them both to break free from the strict hold placed on both. They were well respected. They were trusted. They were feared. And Christopher Sampson was the master of dominance.
But tonight, held a different set of feelings, a darker need, a stronger hold.
She could almost feel his hot breath as he eased behind her, could even tell what he was thinking, what he was desiring. Clenching her fists, she relished the way his fingers gently unsnapped her bra, his rugged hands sliding over her shoulders as he guided the straps down her arms. She watched as the unwanted lingerie fell to the floor, the whooshing sound reminiscent of his favorite implement.
“You’ve been a very bad girl. You are aware of that. Working late hours. Ignoring me. I do check on you, remember?” His voice little more than a whisper, he lowered his head, breathing across the back of her neck. He pressed his lips against her heated skin, mouthing the base of her neck, darting out the tip of his tongue as if to taste her.
“Yes…” Goosebumps floated up along her arms, creating a warm vibe in her belly. “Yes, sir.”
“You’ll pay for the indiscretion.” He gripped the back of her neck, squeezing as he continued kissing along her shoulder bone to the top of her arm. Very gently he slipped the clip from her hair, bunching her long locks before allowing them to fall to her back. “Pay indeed.”
She held her breath as he wrapped a single finger around the thin lace of her thong and yanked, the inertia forcing her body to sway forward and backward.
Christopher moved until he was in front then lifted her chin with his index finger. “Mine to do with as I please.”
“Come.” He pushed her shoulder, guiding her toward a series of dangling chains. “Arms over your head.”
This was his private area, a special room located in his basement and the normal location of their playtime. There were times she wondered if anyone else had ever been here. ‘Their room’, as he called it. She both revered and feared the location, given his special proclivities, but trusted him implicitly and had since their first meeting. She obeyed his command, placing her arms over her head. The arrangement was almost perfect.
He secured her with ease, making certain her wrists were bound tightly. “Agony and ecstasy.”
“Yes, sir. Mmm…” She longed to touch him, to fall to her knees, sucking his cock, but tonight was all about his need to punish her, make certain she remained well aware of her position, both in and out of bed. The thought was almost ridiculous. She’d never been allowed in his bed.
When he was finished, he brushed his fingers around her waist then cupped both breasts, rubbing her nipples between his fingers. “Your skin is perfect but will be marked tonight, a reminder.”
Her heart racing, she was prepared for the pain, the agony that would create a flourish of emotions. “Oh, yes, sir.”
Christopher pinched her nipples, twisting and pulling as he studied her face, his eyes glistening with anticipation.
There was something about the intensity of his needs that brought a series of questions to her mind. He was never this brazen and even though the ‘arrest’ had been exciting, he’d taken chances, which he’d never done before. No one was to ever know of their relationship. They’d gone to great lengths to cover up their tryst.
He continued pinching as he exhaled. “Tonight, I’ll use the quirt.” Dipping his hand between her legs, he swirled his finger around her clit.
Another rush of quivers shifted into her stomach, creating butterflies. She loathed the implement, the way the leather sliced against her skin. The welts were an intense but effective reminder. She gathered a whiff of his cologne, the exotic scent intoxicating, mixing with the musk of her feminine desires. She was wet and hot all over.
Christopher moved his hand up to her face, caressing her chin, rubbing his thumb across her ruby stained lips. “I can’t wait to fuck you.”
As he moved away, she listened to every sound, capturing the way his breathing had changed, the way he opened the cabinet slowly, as if savoring every second of anticipation. He’d never know what thoughts roared through her mind, how much she craved as well as loathed their sessions. She always felt like a wretched failure after their time together, even to the point of taking several showers. She swallowed, trying to push away the bile, creeping up from her stomach, sliding along her throat.
“Oh!” Jumping to the sound, she struggled in her bindings, concentrating on the clanging of the metal chains.
Using a single finger, he pushed the tip into her skin as he moved down her spine to the crack of her ass. “I love the marks you wear for me. If only others could see them.”
“Ooh…” The strangled moan seemed to echo even in the expansive space as pain tore through her.
“Aahh!” She heard the snap of his wrist, every action disciplined. Controlled. As he paused, she tried to catch her breath, to hold back her screams of agony as her body shook.
“Yes…” he breathed out, the word full of such pleasure.
With every hard strike, she was lulled into a separate place in her mind, the growing peace she could only feel from punishment.
Crack! Slap! Whoosh!
Panting, she licked her now bone-dry lips as she tried to focus but her vision was marred, shooting spots in front of her eyes.
Christopher picked up the rhythm, smacking her ass and her upper thighs, moving from one direction to the other.
Crack! Slap! Pop!
Her body going slack, her feet dragging on the floor, she was shivering as a distinct cold slithered into every muscle. No longer exclaiming, she fell into subspace, enjoying the sensations, the rush of anguish until she could only feel raw ecstasy.
“You still me,” he whispered and caressed her ass cheeks, working his fingers into her bruised skin. “I might have to fuck that tight ass of yours.”
Reese heard the drop of the quirt as if in slow motion and knew he was cranking the chains, lowering her down several inches. Electricity created a shimmer in her loins as she allowed her body to dangle, her head lolling down. Somehow, the floor seemed so very far away. Beads of perspiration slipped down from above her eyes, dripping one by one onto the scrubbed and polished floor.
As he released her hands and pulled her against his chest, he slid his arms around her waist, holding her in a protective stance, his face pressed into her neck. “I could do this every day.”
“Mmm… Yes.” She placed her hands on top of his, caressing, holding, longing to feel his thick cock pumping into her. She caught the way his heart was beating, thumping against his chest. He was always so collected, never rattled either in or out of the courtroom.
Gathering her into his arms, he cradled her against his chest, kissing her forehead as he walked toward the entrance.
“Where are we going?”
“To my bed.”
She lifted her head, studying his eyes. He was no longer looking at her and there was a level of sadness she hadn’t seen before. But this moment was too precious, so different than she was used to, so she nestled her head against his shoulder as he took the stairs two at a time. Why was there a queasiness in her stomach?
Easing her down, he cupped both sides of her face, kissing her lips, her nose and her forehead. “You are so special.”
“Thank you, sir. You’re not so bad yourself.” She toyed with his tie, pressing her hand over the designer silk. Always the consummate professional.
Winking, he turned her around, pushing her over the edge of the bed.
The sharp slap of his hand against her ass gave her another series of tingles.
“I’m going to fuck you long and hard.” He snaked his hand between her legs, shoving two then three fingers inside, flexing them open. He pumped slowly and methodically as he bit down on her arm.
“Mmm…” Reese arched her back, meeting every hard thrust.
Within seconds, he moved away, leaving an emptiness furrowing deep inside. She darted a look over her shoulder. This was so unexpected, so out of the norm, but there was still no concept of passion. Just hard fucking. Dropping her head, she waited, expecting him to fully undress. Only a few seconds later, he gripped her hips and kicked her legs open wide, instantly thrusting the entire length of his cock deep into her pussy. The scratch of his pants against her thighs was startling.
The man hadn’t bothered to undress.
He plunged hard and fast, skin slapping against skin, his grunts floating into the air above them.
She clenched her hands around the comforter and kept her eyes on the floor to ceiling windows that covered one entire side of the impressive room. From here she could see the shimmer of the pool, the luminescent LED lights twinkling in various colors. And for a few seconds, she was no longer enjoying or even feeling his almost brutal thrusts. A single tear slipped from her right eye, dripping onto what she knew had to be an expensive comforter. Everything was perfect about his life.
Except for her.
“God, so wet. So damn tight.” His grunts turned into almost savage growls as he drove in and out. He fisted her hair, dragging her head back at an awkward position.
She bit back a series of cries, preferring to keep the loneliness, the bleak feelings buried deep inside.
“I’m going to come.”
And she no longer cared.
“Yes. Fuck, yes!”
Clenching her eyes shut, she was shaking but her condition had nothing to do with her body’s reaction, but one of her mind. At this moment, she hated him. Hated all he stood for.
And mostly, she hated herself.
Christopher draped his body over hers, licking the back of her neck. “Damn, I love our time together.” Within seconds, he’d walked away.
Reese shuddered as she tried to stand, almost falling across the bed. He’d never been this way, not once. Ice cold. Something had changed between them.
“Here you go, beautiful. Why don’t you put on my robe and we’ll have some wine on the deck?”
“Okay,” was all she could manage. She stood up and tipped her head to watch him, catching the expression on his face. Unfeeling. She was nothing but an object. “Damn you.” The whisper was hoarse, full of anger, but she doubted he’d heard. She slipped into the robe and walked into the bathroom, turning on the light. Glaring at her reflection, she no longer could stand the face staring back at her. This was going to end. Period. She deserved more than a man who had no clue about passion, no idea about romance. There’d been no flowers, only a few professional dinners out, talking about criminals and various sentences.
After all, he was the county prosecutor, a man of extreme power and wealth and she was a low on the totem pole defense attorney. Why the hell had he bothered? Tying the sash as tightly as she could stand, she walked through his marble and glass, steel and leather house, finding him already on the outside deck. Gone was his suit jacket and tie. In his hand was a glass of wine. Red wine. His choice.
“There you are. The night is beautiful. I thought we could talk,” he said casually as if he was on top of the world.
“Why not,” she said with as much conviction as she could stand then grabbed her glass of wine, joining him at the railing but keeping a wide berth.
“I’m fine. Just cooling off.”
He remained quiet for a full minute before shrugging. “Whatever you say.”
She took a sip then a gulp of wine. There had never been an awkward silence between them, not in the six months they’d been doing this. Whatever this was.
“How’s the case?”
“He’s a horrible monster but I stand a chance of doing my job just like a good little monkey.”
“Whoa. That’s harsh. You’re defending your client.”
Laughing, she shot him a look. “I guess that’s what others would say. I know he’s guilty.”
“Then my prosecutor will convict him.”
“Your prosecutor couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag, Christopher. The kid is wet behind the ears and you should be the one trying this case.”
“You have a complete understanding of why I can’t, Reese,” he insisted, sounding exasperated.
“Because of us.”
He laughed and turned to face her. “Of course not. Because of this case in general. You know what the public is expecting. They think he’s a saint.”
She narrowed her eyes before registering what he was saying. “You didn’t want to come within two feet of this case. You were terrified of losing or worse, you didn’t want the possibility of convicting him tarnishing your reputation. Right?”
“It’s more complicated than that, Reese and you know exactly my reasons why. You are well aware of what’s at stake here.”
“You mean because he’s a Congressman’s son? You mean because you’re selling out?” Anger mixed with contempt. “You’re a coward!”
The silence between them was palpable.
“I’m just doing my job,” he stated and took a sip of wine. “Look, I wanted you to know something.”
“Okay. Tell me something.” She wasn’t certain she cared what he had to say.
“I’ve been doing some thinking and well, Marcy and I have been spending some time together.”
“You mean Marcy, your almost ex-wife, the one you’ve done nothing but bad mouth the entire time we’ve been together?”
“God, you can be a bitch,” he huffed.
She exhaled and concentrated on the lights twinkling in the expensive pool. “Just answer the question.”
“Yes, my wife. The divorce isn’t final. You know we’re still close.”
“No, I had no idea.” She’d caught an inkling that the ultra-connected Marcy wasn’t the sweet and hapless girl with no brain and zero sex drive he’d portrayed her to be. In fact, she had a feeling Marcy was pulling the strings, keeping her boy in line.
Christopher sighed and shook his head. “She’s always been important to me.”
“O-kay.” What the hell was she supposed to say? She bit back a bitter laugh.
“Anyway, I wanted tonight to be very special for us.”
Which is why you fucked me like a whore? The words were on the tip of her tongue. “Which means you’re going back to her.”
He hesitated, moving his wine glass from hand to hand.
“Just say it, for God’s sake, Christopher. At least don’t be a coward about this.” She was disgusted with everything.
“Fine. Then I’ll say it. Yes, we’re going to reconcile.”
“Interesting. Is she into your play room? Does she crave being bound and gagged? Whipped? Oh, no, that’s right. She can’t stand sex.”
Of course, he had no words for her, no statement of fact or fiction.
“I love her. You always knew that.”
Reese nodded several times, a smile curling on her lips. “Yes, I guess I did.”
“But we can still enjoy tonight.”
She thought about her options then gulped the entire glass of wine. Wiping her mouth, she slammed the glass down on the wooden table, praying to God the expensive crystal would shatter. “Take me to my car.” As she walked away from him, she snarled. There was no sadness, just a mind boggling frigid chill. However, she made a promise to herself.
This kind of shit was never going to happen again.
And, she was going to take several showers.