He never expects to find her there…
Officer Quinten Blackthorne is working undercover to bring the Rudnikov Mob Empire to its knees. He never expects to find his best friend’s baby sister, Becca, in the center of a powder keg situation at the infamous mobster’s home. With her life on the line, he does the only thing he can think of to save her – he pretends that she’s his fiancée, who knows nothing of his clandestine activities with the criminal enterprise, and stands as her stalwart protector.
Forced into marriage…
But Quinten never expects the mob boss to force them into marriage at gunpoint as a test of loyalty. Not to mention, the idea of her belonging to him isn’t unappealing, nor is he as averse to the prospect as he lets on. Becca, with her sweet curves and take no prisoners attitude, fascinates him, stirs him, and leaves him craving her submission. Yet his past is fraught with broken dreams and death, so he uses his friendship with her brother as a shield against his yearning to claim her as his own.
Resistance is futile…
However, circumstances soon compel Becca and Quinten to become the most unlikely allies in a deadly game of deception. Now they must depend on one another for survival. As they race to unlock the keys to breaking the case, will Quinten be able to maintain his hands-off policy with Becca? Or will he surrender to the earth-shattering passion and turn their marriage of convenience into the real deal?
Quinten Blackthorne was a member of Anton Rudnikov’s mob team? What the hell?
Not six weeks ago, she’d danced with the man at her brother’s wedding. Quinten was an officer with the New Orleans Police Department and one of her brother’s best friends. He’d been a groomsman in the wedding party, and had looked downright sinful in his tux, like a dark prince of the underworld.
Why was he here? What was he doing with Rudnikov?
Tonight, Quinten wore a charcoal gray suit, almost identical to the rest of the crime lord’s hired goons. Shock flitted through his warm cognac eyes the moment his gazed landed on her. The man was mister badass personified. The utter confidence Quinten exuded in his pinky made the hired goons look laughable at best in their attempts to seem imposing. He was the alpha of alphas, top of the food chain, and he knew it. The suit, combined with the ivory dress shirt, was unbuttoned at the neck and stretched over muscles that should be indecent. Becca knew that from experience. The night of the wedding, as he’d held her on the dance floor, she’d had the good fortune to feel those muscles flex beneath her hands. The man was ripped, and solid as a tank. He wore his hair, black as midnight, in a military style cut. And he had one of those masculine faces that tended to have perpetual dark stubble which, combined with his strong angular jaw, full lips, and dark slash of eyebrows, only served to make him hotter. As in: five alarm fire, panties have disintegrated into ash, and a woman was ready and willing to do whatever the man wanted.
“Miss O’Malley, a pleasure to meet you. I thank you for coming to meet with me on such short notice. I’m Anton Rudnikov. My associate, Sasha, speaks highly of you and your gallery. I admit, I’ve not had the chance to attend one of your showings, but I am impressed with your use of color in your art,” Anton Rudnikov stated with a friendliness that belied the underlying air of hostility in the room.
“Thank you, Mister Rudnikov. You have a lovely home with some rather spectacular artwork. If I’m not mistaken, you have an original Renoir in your entryway.” Becca redirected her attention to the mob boss. She shook his hand, hoping she was hiding the dread coursing through her.
“You’ve got a good eye. If we had more time, I would give you a tour,” Rudnikov said with a frigid smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Did that mean her time was running out?
Quinten marched up beside Rudnikov, directing a scowl her way. His fury was evident; he glowered, apparently angry that she was there. Well, that made two of them. Becca wasn’t thrilled about the fact either. But he held her gaze, trying to impart some indistinct meaning that went straight over her stunned head. If she were being fanciful, she would have said he was pleading with her.
Quinten beg someone? Yeah, right.
She imagined even the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang moved out of Quinten’s way when he approached. In front of the entire crime entourage, he snarled, “What the fuck are you doing here, Becca?”
Rudnikov glanced between them, speculative interest and suspicion in his dead gaze. “You two know each other, Quinten?”
Quinten grabbed her hand and squeezed her fingers. Hard. Like he was trying to pass along a meaning that she still didn’t understand—mainly because her entire day had taken on a weird damn Twilight Zone bent, with danger and betrayal filtering in through every crack. Quinten, with her hand still gripped in his much larger one, turned to Rudnikov and said, “Yes, we do know each other. She’s my fiancée, sir. She doesn’t know that I work for you.”
At the pressure on her hand, and Quinten’s declaration, Becca stared at Quinten like he had gone mad. Fiancée? What the hell? What was the man playing at?
“Is that a fact? I don’t see a ring on her hand,” Rudnikov replied, his face an inscrutable mask.
That was it. They were dead. Her story would end, here, now, holding Quinten’s hand. On the bright side, Becca thought, she wouldn’t die alone. Tension oozed in the room. She’d frozen and even forgot to breathe. The guards had their hands in position against their firearms. Becca prayed she wouldn’t pass out or pee in her pants in terror.
“That’s because she’s miffed with me. We had a fight the other night and she took it off. But she loves me.” Quinten stared down at her from his six foot plus height, his cognac gaze imparting a play along message while he pretended to be a man besotted.
Becca didn’t understand—any of it. Not why Sasha had betrayed her trust, or whether Quinten was a dirty cop and only coming to her rescue because he was friends with her brother, or whether the mob boss intended to let her walk out of his house alive.
“Is this true, Miss O’Malley?” Rudnikov asked like he was daring her to dispute Quinten’s outlandish claim.
Pain shot up her arm from her hand as Quinten squeezed. Becca tried to keep her expression serene. Doubt shrouded Rudnikov’s hard glare. Better to have the crime boss believe she was with Quinten than alone and at his mercy. With a silent prayer, she tossed her lot in with the devil she knew. “It’s true, Mister Rudnikov. I’m engaged to the big lug—for now, at least.”
“And why just for now?” Rudnikov’s stare made her want to squirm. But she held it together—barely. Staring Rudnikov in his eyes the color of mahogany, Becca knew what it was like to stare evil in the face. The man would have no qualms about ending her life, right here, right now. The bastard wouldn’t even flinch at the blood spilled in his ornate sitting room.
“Because the blasted man keeps dragging his heels. Any time I try to set a date, he gives me the runaround. He’s the one who proposed and made me all insane with wanting the whole fairytale wedding deal. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to marry me, and I took the ring off until he’s willing to set a date. And why didn’t you tell me about all this, sweetie?” She glanced at Quinten and found approval there.
Rudnikov chuckled and said in a deprecating manner, “Because business is the providence of men, Miss O’Malley… and to show that there are no hard feelings, I will help you young lovebirds out. I can’t have one of my men breaking a vow with my newest business associate, now can I? You’ll marry. Tonight, in fact. Robbie, call Father Vincent. Ask him to be here within the hour to perform a marriage ceremony.”
“But, but… I don’t think—” Becca sputtered. Marry Quinten? Was Rudnikov serious?
Quinten’s hold on her hand tightened even more. She wondered if she would have any bones left before the night was over, or if they would crack into jagged pieces. Quinten protested, “Sir, that’s a generous offer. But she wants a big church wedding and I don’t—”
Rudnikov waved him off. “Nonsense. It will happen tonight. You can always do the fancy wedding later.”
Becca opened her mouth to refuse but shut it again at Rudnikov’s piercing glare. In the game of chicken, he had called their bluff and was waiting to strike. Becca moved closer to Quinten, choosing her side.