What appears to be a tricked-out motorcycle shop on the South Side of Chicago is actually headquarters for the world’s most elite covert operatives. Deadly, dangerous, and determined, they’ll steal your breath and your heart.
Fighting for his life is pretty much standard operating procedure for Christian Watson, former SAS Officer. Doing it with bossy, beautiful BKI office manager Emily Scott in tow is another matter entirely.
Check out our exclusive excerpt below!
The pitter-patter of little feet…
It wasn’t the first night Christian had heard Emily shuffle up to his door. But it was the first night he wasn’t going to wait around, heart in his throat, for her to knock.
It’d been hell—but also quite fun—to watch her struggle to resist him these past four weeks. Every teasing remark or quiet conversation only had him wanting more. Every gentle touch or fleeting caress had him fighting the urge to yank her into his arms and kiss her until she begged him never to stop. Every longing, hungry look she shot him—and there were quite a few—had him curling his hands into fists to keep from yelling at her, “You know you want me! You know you love me! Quit fighting and just give in, you daft, dear, damnably infuriating woman!”
But he’d surprised himself by showing the patience of Job. In fact, his restraint up to this point was worthy of a medal. Unfortunately for Emily, tonight he’d reached his wit’s end.
Time to press the issue, he thought, a feeling of anticipation tightening his chest. Time to give her the nudge she needs.
Quietly, he tossed aside his covers, tugged on a pair of jeans, and walked to his bedroom door. He was still doing up the buttons on his fly when he opened the door and found her standing at his threshold in the dark hallway. When she sucked in a startled breath, he was beyond delighted.
The lamp burning on his bedside table gave off enough light to show her eyes quickly tracing over his naked torso and lingering on the trail of hair that started below his belly button. When she unconsciously licked her lips, his prick—which was always an overeager prat when it came to her—jerked with interest.
“Fancy coming in for bit?” He held the door wide.
She darted a look into his room, saw his king-size bed with the rumpled sheets, and blushed to the roots of her hair.
Nodding, she then quickly shook her head. “No, I…” She swallowed. “I was just…”
He lifted a brow, loving that she was discombobulated. “You were just…what?”
Her eyebrows slammed into a scowl. “So you’re going to spend the rest of your life shirtless, is that it?”
He leaned against the doorjamb, crossing his arms over his chest and not missing the moment her eyes alighted on the bulge of his bicep. It was difficult not to shoot a hand of victory in the air when she gulped and seemed to have trouble meeting his gaze.
“You’re lucky I put on trousers, darling.” He made sure to thicken his accent. He knew what it did to her. “I sleep in the nude.”
Her eyes slipped to the waistband of his jeans. He didn’t need to hear her say the word commando. It was written all over her face. She gulped again, and he wondered if he’d ever heard a more gratifying sound.
“Emily?” He lifted a brow. “This is the third night I’ve heard you standing outside my door, so is there something you feel you need to tell me?”
Not that he wasn’t perfectly pleased standing there, letting her ogle him. And she was ogling. Score one for Christian! But with each passing second, it was becoming more and more impossible to keep his hands to himself.
“Huh?” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Oh right.” She nodded vigorously. “There is something I want to tell you. I’m…” She looked around as if she was searching for the answer. “I’m mad at you!”
That had his chin jerking back.
“I’m mad that you told everyone you love me and now they’re on your side. I’m mad that you’re being so”—she waved a hand in his direction—“nice and accommodating and acting like nothing has changed between us. I’m mad that you keep touching me and making me remember all that was and all that should have been, had you not gotten all delusional and started thinking you’re in love with me.”
By the time she got to the end, she was breathing heavily, her small breasts rising and falling against the cotton of her pullover.
“That’s it. In you go.” He grabbed her arm and tugged her into his room.
Squeaking her protest, she dug in her heels. Considering he outweighed her by about six stone, the effort was laughable. Closing the door behind her, he marched her over to the chair he kept in the corner.
“Hey!” She slapped at his hands as he pressed her into the seat. “Stop manhandling me, you big bully!”
“Sit!” He pointed a finger at her pert nose. “Stay!”
“And now you’re gonna treat me like a dog?” Her South Side accent was back in full effect.
He didn’t realize how mad he was that she’d called his love of her delusional until right that minute. “I’m hardly treating you like a dog, Emily. I’m treating you like a woman who insulted the bloody hell out of me.”
“What?” She wrinkled her nose. “How did I insult you?”
“Number one,” he held up a finger, “I didn’t tell everyone here that I love you so they’d get on my side. I told them because it’s impossible to keep secrets in this place. Everyone was bound to find out we’d slept together, and I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and give you poppycock about it.”
He thrust up a second finger. “Number two, I’m nice and accommodating and acting as if nothing has changed between us because nothing has. You’re still you, adorable and bossy and altogether infuriating. And I’m still me, single-minded and stubborn and completely barmy about you.”
“Number three.” Up went a third finger. “If me touching you makes you remember all that we shared and all we could still be sharing if you’d only pull your head out of your arse, then that’s your problem, not mine. I’m not the one who put a stop to our lovemaking. You did that.”
By the time he raised his fourth finger, he was shaking with barely repressed fury. “And last but not least, I am not suffering some delusion about being in love with you. I am in love with you. End of story. And that you would belittle it by brushing it off and saying it’s less than it is makes me want to box your ears until your head rattles!”
He hadn’t realized he’d been pacing until he came to a stop in front of her. His heart thundered. His chest rose and fell with each livid breath. And seeing her staring up at him with those wide, dark eyes, her mouth open in a shocked O, had him fighting the urge to kiss the shit out of her.
Instead, he blew out a calming sigh and said, “You’re not mad at me, Emily. You want me, but feel you can’t have me. There’s a difference.”
She stood up. “I can’t have you! Because if what you say is true and you really do love me—”
“Then continuing to sleep with you would make me a horrible person!”
He cocked his head. “Why? Says who?”
“Says me!” She hooked a thumb toward her chest, and he saw her hand was shaking. Brilliant. He didn’t want to be the only one having difficulty controlling his emotions. “It wouldn’t be right.”
He crossed his arms over his chest, smirking when her eyes pinged down to his pecs and then ran over his tattoos before returning to his face. “Why wouldn’t it be right? Haven’t you ever heard of friends with benefits?”
“You don’t just want to be my friend.”
“True.” He nodded. “I want to be much more than that. But if I can’t have it, I’ll settle for being your coworker and your lover if you’ll have me. Because here’s the deal, Emily. For the longest time, I dreaded the thought of BKI going civilian. Like I told you, I tried the Joe Bloggs gig and it didn’t work. I thought my soul was too violent, too barbaric. And I thought without the madness that is the spec-ops life keeping me distracted, I’d get sucked back into my past. But loving you has changed me. Made me realize I’ve no need for an outlet for the intensity inside me. All I need is you. I’m someone else when we’re together. Someone more…like my true self. And I would rather be your friend forever, with or without benefits, than a stranger to you for even one day.”
A muscle worked in her jaw. Was it him, or were her eyes overly bright?
“Why do you have to be so…so…” She swallowed and shook her head.
“Wonderful!” She yelled, then ran from the room, slamming the door behind her.
Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. For more information, please visit her website, Facebook, or Twitter!