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Heart of Fame, Book 8.5

Lexxie Couper

Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.

ISBN: 978-1-944003-35-7

Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.

All rights reserved.

 

Chapter 1

Desmond Russell climbed out of the plane and into a furnace.

The dry Outback heat sucked the moisture from his lungs, his skin, his every breath. He paused, allowing himself a moment to adjust to the searing summer temperature. When he’d boarded the small plane waiting for him on the runway at Sydney’s domestic airport—three hours and forty-two minutes ago—the humidity of the day had clung to him like a shroud.

Humidity and the Outback however, didn’t go hand in hand. This far from the coastline, the only hint of moisture was the small beads of sweat currently popping out on his temples.

With a soft grunt, Desmond shrugged out of his suit jacket and draped it over his left forearm. He didn’t loosen the Windsor knot at the base of his throat. As hot as the day was here in Wallaby Ridge, a small town nearly in the middle of Australia—and it was hot, somewhere in the upper forties Celsius, by his educated guess, which made it around 118-plus in Fahrenheit—it was mild compared to some of the intense infernos he’d been in the middle of.

The heat didn’t worry him at all. He was used to it. Twelve years as a firefighter for Sydney City, one of the busiest stations in the country, and eight years as an arson investigator meant the heat and Desmond were on a first name basis. The heat didn’t intimidate him, it just told him secrets.

Like the fact the woman storming toward him now across Wallaby Ridge’s red-dust-covered runway was not happy to see him.

Not many people in Outback Australia ventured outside at high noon when the blistering sun was at its most savage without wearing a hat. Nor sunglasses to shield their eyes from the extreme UV rays.

This woman had though, although woman wasn’t the term that came to mind as he watched her make a beeline for him. Pocket-rocket came to mind. Pixie sex goddess was another.

Pissed off a third.

Drawing in a slow breath of hot air, Desmond stood motionless, his investigator’s kit resting against his thigh, and waited for Jessica Montgomery to reach him.

Based on the telephone call he’d received from her before takeoff, he wasn’t in any hurry to initiate their greeting. Pixie sex goddess or not, she’d been far from discreet in letting him know he wasn’t wanted here.

“I see you got on the plane after all, Des.”

Desmond couldn’t help but smile at her contraction of his name once again. She’d snarled it at him on the phone as if it were a curse. Now, without the aid of a tenuous digital connection to soften the syllables, the full extent of her contempt was clear.

“I did.” He inclined his head with a slow nod.

She stopped a foot before him, the top of her un-hatted head barely reaching his chin, her hazel eyes ablaze with fury hotter than the day. Wow, she really didn’t like him.

“Even though I told you I had it covered.” Her jaw—finely boned and delectable—clenched. “That your services weren’t needed or required.”

“Even though. Do I need to point out again, the property destroyed is owned by the Deputy Prime Minister?”

“You don’t think I have the ability to investigate the fire?”

“Ms. Montgomery—”

Captain Montgomery,” she corrected, a pointed challenge in her voice. “Wallaby Ridge Rural Fire Brigade. Ten years’ service. And, in case I need to point out, the head of the Far West team that covers a total area of two-hundred and sixty thousand kilometres.”

Once again, he inclined his head. “Captain Montgomery. Before taking off, I accessed the state firefighting records, and spent the flight here reading up on you. I am aware you are good at your job. Very good. I’m here because the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister asked me to be. This is no slight on your ability to determine the cause of the blaze. As I said to you on the phone before I left Sydney, I—”

“Am recognized as the country’s most respected arson investigator,” she snarled. Hazel eyes flared with mocking contempt. “You did mention that. I’m still trying to decide if I’m meant to be impressed.”

Desmond raised his eyebrows. Damn, she was a prickly one. With no compunction about letting him know how she felt. Prickly and feisty. And not in the least likely to cower or back down from a challenge.

Unable to stop himself, he ran a slow gaze over her face, down her pixie-like body and up to her face again.

A direct challenge flickered in her eyes, stirring something unexpected in the pit of his gut. A direct challenge followed by an almost imperceptible downward glance away. Like she was torn between ripping off his balls, or contemplating something far more…stimulating.

Control yourself. Now.

He drew a calm breath. Held it. Let it out with an equally calm exhalation.

“Might I suggest, Captain Montgomery,” he said, refusing to allow a hint of request or question in his voice, “that you take me to the site of the fire. So I may begin?”

Jess Montgomery’s jaw bunched. Her eyes narrowed for a fleeting second. Her stare flicked over him in the same way he’d inspected her, as if sizing him up.

And then she cocked her chin, crossed her arms over her gloriously round breasts—breasts straining against a snug white T-shirt featuring the Wallaby Ridge’s Fire Brigade emblem—and gave him a slow, cold smile. “The last arson investigator I worked with from the Big Smoke was also called Russell.”

A thick tension filled Desmond’s body. A heavy pressure wrapped around his temples.

“He also claimed to be the ‘most respected arson investigator in the country’.” Jess’s tone grew cutting. The combative fire in her eyes turned sharp. “He stank of scotch the whole time he was here and got everything wrong.”

Desmond stared at her. The pressure around his head spread to his chest. His gut churned. He drew another breath. Remained motionless. Sent out a wordless thank you to a god he didn’t believe in that he was wearing black Ray Bans. The sunglasses hid his eyes and the emotion no doubt currently in them. An emotion he’d spent the last six months holding in check. Repressing.

Denying.

“Darius Russell?” he asked, the name like dust on his tongue.

Jess Montgomery nodded, lip curling with distaste. “That’s the bastard. Relative of yours?”

Desmond inclined his head with a single nod, offering his own smile. Inside, a cold tension coiled and writhed. “My father. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to work. Feel free to join me at the site, but do not interfere. I have a job to do for the Deputy Prime Minister.”

And with that, he inched his folded suit jacket a little farther up his forearm and walked from the runway, telling himself he didn’t care if the captain of the Wallaby Ridge Rural Fire Brigade followed.

Telling himself but knowing it was a lie.

He cared a lot.

Because ever since his father died six months ago, ever since the truth of his incompetence was revealed, Desmond had made it his mission to right the wrongs left in Darius’s drunken wake. It was clear by the hate and contempt in Jessica Montgomery’s eyes when he’d told her he was Darius Russell’s son that she had been a victim of one of his father’s many fuckups.

Which impacted greatly on his time here in the Outback.

He would find out how his father had screwed her over and do everything he could to fix it.

What were the chances, however, of her letting him?

Why the fuck did he have to be so fucking sexy?

Jess watched the big-city arson investigator stride away from her, with his big city suit—no doubt costing more than she made a year—and his big city haircut and his big city attitude. She narrowed her eyes, wishing she hadn’t hurried from the Wallaby Ridge fire station without first grabbing her sunglasses. She was going to get a headache from the glaring sun if she wasn’t careful.

You’ve already got a headache. Thanks to the bastard in the immaculate suit with the chiseled cheekbones. Seriously, what real living man looks like that?

Before she could stop herself, she dropped her gaze to Desmond Russell’s arse, noting with a traitorous throb how fucking good it looked in his suit pants.

Everything about him looked good. Nothing like his father at all. And it wasn’t just the tailored suit talking to her. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, impeccably groomed, square-jawed, hawked-nosed, salt-and-pepper poster boy for everything she secretly lusted after. The kind of man she never dated—huh! Dating? What the fuck is that?—not just because they didn’t exist out here in the Ridge, but because really, what would a man like that ever see in someone like her?

“Captain?”

At the deep timbre of Desmond’s voice, Jess flinched. She jerked her gaze up to his face, unable to miss the twitch of his lips. The realization that he’d caught her staring at his butt flooded her cheeks with heat.

Damn it. Why couldn’t he look like his father? The drunken, conceited, condescending bastard who’d snubbed her when she’d tried to point out evidence of an accelerant in the fire that had killed her brother. Who’d scoffed at her when she drew his attention to the melted wax residue on the floor beside the charred remains of a stack of newspapers she knew hadn’t been piled by a chair in her brother’s living room the night before.

“Yes?” she snapped, confusion strangling her irritation. Was she angry with herself for getting busted checking out his backside, or for actually checking out his backside? Or was she angry with him for being a big city arson investigator sent in to investigate a fire in her territory? Or for being the son of the jerk who dismissed the evidence she’d found about her brother’s death?

Perhaps it’s because despite all those things, you’d still climb him like a pole and seek out his tonsils with your tongue at the drop of a—

“Are you going to join me in the helicopter, Captain Montgomery?” His twitching lips curled into a smile. The kind that made Jess’s pussy throb and her ire heat. “Or are you going to meet me at the scene of the fire?”

Jess ground her teeth. Movement behind Desmond grabbed her attention. Evan Alexander, the area’s only aviation firefighter, was walking towards them both.

Another wave of heat rushed through Jess, this time at the unnerving thought of being in the small confines of Wallaby Ridge Rural Fire Brigade’s Bell 205 with Desmond as they flew to the Deputy PM’s remote homestead, two hundred and forty-two kilometres away.

She opened her mouth to say there wasn’t a hope in hell she was flying with him to the burnt-out remains of the Deputy PM’s homestead, and then caught sight of that small twitch of Desmond’s lips again.

The bastard was smirking at her. Thought he’d ruffled her feathers.

Ha. As if. It took more than a sexy guy in a killer suit with wholly kissable lips and a jawline she just wanted to lick—

Jesus, woman. Stop it!

Pulling a breath, she met the bastard’s Ray Ban-covered gaze. “Of course I’m joining you in the helicopter.”

Did he just cock an eyebrow at her?

Grinding her teeth, she strode toward him. Past him. Heading for the Bell, where it sat on the helipad next to the Ridge’s miniscule airport terminal. “Someone has to be there to point everything out,” she threw over her shoulder.

Behind her, Desmond remained silent.

Jess refused to check if the insult had ruffled him.

Instead, she stomped over to the chopper, yanked open the cockpit door and climbed into the copilot’s seat.

Desmond Russell might be the sexiest man she’d ever laid eyes on, but she was putting him firmly in his place right now.

And that place was not in control of the fire scene investigation or her.

The sooner he wised up to that, the better for everyone.

Chapter 2

This was not a boat accident.

The classic line from Desmond’s favourite movie whispered through his head, as it always did when something about a fire site felt…wrong.

Desmond stood in the middle of the charred carcass of the Broken Downs living room, a homestead owned by the Deputy Prime Minister’s family for over one hundred and fifty years, and let his gaze run over the blackened remains of what was once opulent country furniture. Furniture paid for, no doubt, by Australian taxpayers.

He drew a slow breath, taking in the acrid smell of burnt varnish, wood, upholstery, carpet and plastic. Tasting it.

Analysing it.

This soon after the blaze—only a matter of hours, when it came down to it—the air still hung heavy with the taint. Fire didn’t just destroy property and possessions; it singed the air itself. Changed it.

Every fire was different, regardless of the cause. Not just the conditions, but the burn. The life of the fire told a story, as did the remains. And these remains were telling Desmond something wasn’t quite the way it looked.

Staying motionless, he replayed the inferno that had gutted the house, and this room in particular, in his head.

He hadn’t been here of course, when the homestead was destroyed. He didn’t need to be. He could see every lick of flame, could hear every crack as the structure surrendered to them. Without moving from where he stood, he knew where the flames were at their hottest, at their most greedy.

But what caused such ravenous hunger? And what directed such ferocious burn?

He fixed his focus on the far corner of the room, picturing an exquisitely carved antique armchair gifted to the Deputy PM by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, where a charred pile of ash now sat.

The chair (or the lack of it)…

There was something…

For it to be nothing but ash now…

A faint crunch—the sound of a booted sole on charred floorboards—shattered the silence of the scene and he drew another breath, yanked from the moment by the one person he didn’t want to be near.

Damn it, she’s too much of a distraction.

Trying to maintain his focus on the corner, he narrowed his eyes. What had the insurance report said about the chair? What kind of wood was it carved from again? Teak? Mahogany? Both burned differently. Neither left ash like—

A whiff of something distinctly feminine tickled his senses. Nothing overt or cloying, just a hint of jasmine. Her shampoo? Her soap?

The chair. Focus on the—

“Far be it from me to question your technique, Des,” Jess said, the prickly distaste still in her voice. “But you haven’t moved from this spot for close to an hour now.”

“Fifty-three minutes,” he said without checking his watch. “And as yet, there is no need for me to do so.”

Another crunch of boot on burnt destruction, this one softer. More…contemplative. Considered.

A small smile tugged at the corners of Desmond’s lips before he could stop it. The captain of the Wallaby Ridge Rural Fire Brigade may be the feistiest woman he’d ever met, but she also knew how to move around a delicate fire scene without disturbing it, and that impressed him. Not many people did, even among seasoned firefighters.

An image of her petite frame navigating the chaos and desolation around them filled his mind, replacing the story the still-smoldering remains were trying to hide from him.

The snug, faded Levi’s and pristine white T-shirt, along with the swanlike column of her neck, high cheekbones and challenging eyes, sent a hot surge of base interest into the very pit of his existence. As did another hint of the subtle jasmine.

Damn it. This wasn’t what he’d planned. Not just because she made him think of all the heartache his alcoholic father had left in his incompetent wake, but because every molecule in his body wanted nothing more than to strip her naked and lose himself in the sweet sexual submission of her—

“The fire was completely out when you and Alexander arrived?” he asked without turning, knowing she was now standing right beside him. “Smothered by the storm?”

“That’s correct.”

“No extinguishing took place?”

“Not from the chopper. By the time we made it here, the Deputy PM’s resident staff was all accounted for and the homestead was a drenched mess. The storm had passed by and all that was left was free-floating smoke settled on the sodden remains, grey in colour and void of energy.”

Once again, Desmond found himself impressed by Jess. She knew the pertinent information to divulge and left out the dramatics a lot of other captains felt the need to bombard him with.

“I didn’t get to see the colour of the flames of the driven smoke, nor the smoke’s density or velocity, so unfortunately I can’t report on either. The head caretaker of Broken Downs told me smoke ranged in colour from white to brown to black. Typical smoke for a typical house fire. The seat of the fire appears to be the kitchen, where, it would seem, someone emptied an ashtray into the garbage bin under the sink.”

Desmond cocked an eyebrow. “Appears? Seem?”

Her lips compressed. Her jaw bunched. God, what would that tiny knot of charged tension feel like against his lips?

“Can I assume,” he asked, all too aware his cock was beginning to become uncomfortably constrained in his boxers, “that you don’t agree?”

It was a loaded question, designed to bring his focus back on the investigation. He’d read her report on the flight to the homestead and knew damn well she didn’t agree with what the surface evidence presented. But he had to do something to smother the disarming notion his mind and body were suggesting.

She snorted, the sound brusque and angry. “You can. And I don’t.”

“Because?”

“Aren’t you here to decide the cause of the fire, Des?”

He allowed himself a slow smile. Did he dare tell her just how turned on he was by not only her perception and obvious skill at her job, but her prickly attitude toward him? “I am.”

Just that two-word answer. He returned his attention to the remains of the antique chair positioned near the smoke-blackened, charred stone fireplace. His gut told him the kitchen had little to do with the seat of the fire.

But the chair…

“Care to share your thoughts on the scene?” she asked, the question more like a challenge.

He flicked her a quick look, noting she’d crossed her arms beneath her breasts. He really wished she hadn’t. It drew his attention to how round and perfect they were.

“Given how thoroughly you’ve investigated it in the hour you’ve stood on this one spot,” she finished.

Yep, definitely a challenge in those eyes of hers. In the short time she’d known him, she’d painted him with the same brush as his father—and that brush was completely dipped in condescending-arsehole-who-thought-he-was-better-than-he-was red.

“Sixty-nine minutes,” he corrected, knowing it was going to piss her off. He wasn’t doing himself any favours with her, but she was bringing out a side of him he never released anywhere but in the privacy of his bedroom.

“I fucking knew you were a fucking prick.” Closing her eyes tight, she shook her head and let out a ragged breath.

He waited for her to regain her composure. Given how often her jaw clenched and her chest heaved, he suspected it was a fierce struggle.

“If you look at the burn damage on the concrete next to the fireplace,” she went on, a tenuous calm in her voice, and all hint of profanity gone, “you’ll notice a dark residue not found anywhere else.”

He followed the line her finger made as it pointed to the remains of the antique armchair his instincts kept whispering to him about.

The chair…

Yes, she was good at her job. Observant and attentive to little details. His gut stirred with professional interest and admiration. His groin tightened with something far more elemental, base and physical.

“And the main caretaker swears there is no smoking allowed in the homestead.” The declaration was uttered with that direct challenge again. “So there would be no reason for a cigarette—lit or not—to be deposited in an ashtray inside.”

She shifted her weight on her feet a little, the faint sound of crunching debris under her boots making him want to look at what angle her hips were now. Making him want to see how little he’d need to shift his own position to bring their thighs into contact with each other.

What would that feel like? Her thigh moving against his?

Before he could stop himself, he turned his gaze to her.

And found her studying him, the challenge gone from her eyes, replaced with something he hadn’t been prepared for.

Something as elemental and base and physical as the tension in his—

From his pants hip pocket, the sound of The Doors singing “Light My Fire” shattered the silence.

Desmond let out a muttered curse.

Jess let out a laugh of sheer delight. “Oh my fucking god, is that really your mobile phone ringtone?”

Digging in his pocket for his damn mobile, Desmond scowled. Christ, he knew he shouldn’t have let his sister borrow his phone in the Sydney airport.

Jess jerked her stare away from Desmond just as he yanked his mobile free of his pocket.

“Russell,” she heard him say.

Scrunching her eyes tightly closed, she let out a slow, shaky breath. Fuck, that was close. The bastard had busted her gawking at him with—she feared—open lust on her face. Thank God for whomever it was on the other end of the connection or who the hell knew what may have happened next.

With the way her body was carrying on, she may very well have stripped naked right there on the spot and begged him to have his wicked way with her.

Huh. Wicked? Something about the smooth, poised way he controlled himself suggested wicked was the wrong word.

Supremely confident way with her?

Arrogantly dominating way with her?

Her pussy contracted on that option. Her nipples pinched tightly.

Dropping her focus to her feet, she made her way out of what was left of the living room, making certain to disturb as little as possible as she left the remains of the house. She’d been over the scene with a fine-tooth comb for evidence of arson and had already drawn her conclusions—and written her report, which Desmond Russell had allegedly read. She knew there was nothing outside of the destroyed living room pertinent to the investigation. She didn’t, however, want Desmond to believe her incompetent.

And you care?

The thought made her grind her teeth. And quicken her steps.

She’d been prepared from the second she’d received the call from him, a mere two hours after the Deputy Prime Minister’s homestead burnt down, to despise him. She’d met her fair share of big-city wankers, his father being the worst of them, and all of them deserved to be despised.

She’d also met her fair share of men who thought a woman had no place in the fire brigade, let alone as captain. Those men—usually from the city—tried to either humiliate her or feel her up her during interregional fire brigade meetings. Those men soon discovered just because she was five foot three didn’t mean she didn’t know her way round a fire scene…or her way round a bunch of testosterone-fuelled males. Growing up with an older brother in an Outback town where there was a male to female ratio of 11:5 meant she neither humiliated easily nor let anyone get handsy.

That hadn’t changed since Kenny’s death six and a half months ago. In fact, thanks to Desmond Russell’s father, she’d probably grown more…feisty.

That feistiness had taken hold of her the moment she was told the PM and the Deputy PM were bringing in “help” in the investigation of the Broken Downs fire. It hadn’t dissipated when she’d laid eyes on the guy, even if he was sex in a suit. It sure as shit hadn’t faded when he’d revealed Darius Russell was his father.

No siree.

So why was she hurrying away now as if she were tiptoeing across eggshells?

Because despite the fact he’s the son of the big-city wanker whose incompetence let Kenny’s murder go unreported, despite the fact he’s here on your turf, looking into your fire scene, you can’t help but accept he’s nothing like his father. You can’t help but recognize the skill in his investigation, the studied consideration. The calm contemplation. And you like it.

She let out a wobbly sigh, unable to stop herself from shooting a quick glance over her shoulder at the irritation in a suit.

He still stood motionless, mobile phone pressed to his ear, his concentration fixed on the burnt remains of what was once an antique chair.

Her pussy contracted again, a reflexive tightening of muscles linked directly to her libido.

Like it? Or like him?

“Absolutely, Prime Minister.”

Jess stiffened as a soft breeze blew Desmond’s words across to her. She pricked up her ears, an itching pressure creeping over her scalp.

Prime Minister. Of course, he was talking to the Prime Minister. About her investigation?

“…only just arrived but already I have a…”

The breeze shifted, taking his words with it.

That didn’t stop her recognizing the smugness to his stance.

Look at him, standing like he fucking owns the place, like he knows all the answers. And what kind of arson investigator wears a suit to the scene of a fire? A suit and a white shirt, no less?

Any arson investigator worth his salt wore overalls and a hard hat on the job. Not a fucking suit that made him look as if he’d just stepped out of a Hugo Boss poster, or fresh from some luxury city office where there wasn’t a hint of charcoal or charred debris to be—

“…she doesn’t, Prime Minister. No.”

The breeze blew his telephone conversation with the leader of the country back to her.

She?

She doesn’t what?

Were they talking about her now?

Jess drove her nails—blunt from too many years of biting them—into her palms. God, and to think only a second ago she’d actually pondered the possibility of him being likeable? Was she letting her pussy run her brain now?

Stopping at the edge where the burnt-out rumble became blackened ground, she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at his back.

The wind, in a playful mood, ruffled the hair at the back of her nape, blowing whatever words Desmond was uttering away from her.

She saw him straighten a little. Saw his shoulders square a little more than they already were. Noticed his head dip in the most miniscule nod. And then he lowered the phone from his ear and slid it into his hip pocket, the action pulling the fine material of his suit pants tighter to the impressively sculpted right cheek of his backside.

Her traitorous pussy constricted at the sight. The pit of her belly joined in the response, as did her nipples and her pulse this time.

Jess bit back a growl of disgust.

Fuck, at this rate, she’d have a fucking orgasm watching the guy even as she imagined telling him to climb back into the plane that brought him here and sod off.

Great. Fucking great.

“That’s the third time I’ve caught you staring at my arse, Captain Montgomery.”

She jerked her stare up to Desmond’s face, her cheeks flooding with warmth.

The corner of his mouth twitched as his hidden gaze met hers. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

Her breath caught in her throat and she lowered her gaze, a thoroughly confusing wave of tight need and desire rushing through her.

Damn it, why the fuck was she getting so turned on by getting busted? That made no sense. Anyone would think she wanted to be seduced by him. Him in his suit and arrogant, dominating—

“Captain?”

When she looked up, he was standing before her. Right before her. So close she could see the tiny bristles darkening his exquisite jaw.

Her breath caught again, her stare locking on the dark lenses of his sunglasses. She saw herself reflected in their spotless surface. Saw her lips part. Saw something in her face she’d never seen before—vulnerability.

Desmond’s nostrils flared, setting off another liquid charge of need within her. Another potent bolt of desire to submit to his strength and force and control. She ducked her head, unable to comprehend both the turmoil going on inside her and the electricity singeing the air between them.

“Jessica?” His smooth voice flayed her confused arousal. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

Fresh heat speared into her very core, followed by shame and exasperated anger. “Yeah,” she snapped, spinning on her heel to storm away. “I am.”

Oh smooth. Real smooth.

Ignoring the mental jibe at her childish behavior, and the knotted tummy at her confusing sexual response to him, she stomped her way around to the other side of the homestead. This far away from the seat of the fire, half a brick wall remained standing, although it was seared to a black charcoal and surrounded by charred wood, broken glass and fire-and smoke-damaged furniture.

The blueprint plans of the Broken Downs homestead told Jess this side of the house was the bedroom wing. Five bedrooms in all, mostly all destroyed or damaged by the fire.

By the Deputy PM’s own orders, all staff resided in the outer cottages, only entering the house to keep it clean and ready for his arrival whenever he chose to visit, usually—Jess had found—during election years, when he was trying to remind the people of the Outback he was one of theirs. The resident staff had informed her no one from the Deputy’s family was in attendance, nor should there have been anyone inside the homestead at all the previous evening. Which didn’t explain the supposed ignition of the cigarette in the garbage bin under the sink. Nor the wax residue on the floor in the living room.

Ignoring the fact a cigarette couldn’t make its own way to a garbage bin, the wax residue set off all sorts of alarm bells in Jess’s mind. When it came to wax residue, Jess had become the most suspicious person on the planet. It still tore at her heart to think of the residue found in her brother’s home from the fire that killed him. Wax residue Desmond’s father fucking refused to acknowledge or question.

Not now, woman. Don’t think of that now. Not with his son right here.

Stopping at what was left of the wall, she forced herself to scan the debris and destruction, her mind registering it, even as it doggedly played with the conundrum of Desmond Russell.

The bastard really had got under her skin. She, who never let anyone get to her. Jessica Montgomery, famous in Wallaby Ridge for being a tough nut to crack, was letting a big-city tosser make her feel like a vulnerable teenage virgin. Huh.

“Tell me, Captain—”

A squeal ripped from Jess before she could stop it.

Fuck!” She spun around, her heart smashing a violet path into her throat as she fixed her glare on the man towering over her. “Jesus fuck, did you fucking mean to scare the shit out of me, you dick?”

Desmond had the audacity to step closer to her. So close she could feel the heat from his body kissing her thighs, her belly, her breasts. “We have a situation to deal with, Captain Montgomery,” he said, as if she hadn’t just spewed forth a tirade of indignant profanity at him with the speed of a machine gun. His Ray Ban-covered gaze roamed her face. She could feel it as well as she could feel the heat from his body caressing hers.

Her pulse quickened. Her nipples chose that moment to bead into painful tips of urgent hunger. Her sex squeezed a cock that wasn’t there with equal greed. She stared up at him. Too aware of his concentrated maleness. Of the arrogant force of his presence.

Oh god, woman. Control yourself.

“Of course we have a situation,” she snapped. Or rather, croaked. Damn it, she needed to get a grip on herself. “There’s evidence of this fire being deliberately lit, and what are you doing? You’re fucking standing in one spot in a fucking suit doing diddly fucking squat.”

Desmond didn’t flinch at her foul language.

What he did was remove his sunglasses and lower his head closer to hers.

Jess caught her breath. Her pussy contracted again. Her heart continued its attempt to break free of her body via her throat.

Oh god, his eyes. They were…they were…who had eyes so blue? So—

“That’s not the situation I’m referring to, Captain,” he said, an enigmatic light burning in those eyes of his as he bent his head even closer to hers. Close enough for her to see the indigo flecks in the mesmerizing arctic-ice blue of his irises. Close enough for her to feel the soft kiss of his warm breath on her lips. “And you know it.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” She swallowed, incapable of tearing her stare from his. Or putting more distance between them with a simple backward step. In the junction of her thighs an exquisite, traitorous heat began to bloom. Bloom and throb and pulse and grow impatient with wanton greed.

“The way I see it,” he said, his smooth poise driving her crazy with both lust and furious irritation, “you’re behaving this way towards me for one of three reasons: one, you despise me because of who my father was; two, you feel professionally threatened by the very fact I’m here; or three, every fibre in your body wants to surrender to what you are so desperately trying to deny right now. And I would lay my very sizeable income on it being option three.”

Jess stared up at him. A maelstrom of insane emotions broiled inside her.

Lust.

Hate.

Contempt.

Hunger.

Frustration.

Want.

Need.

Desire.

Submission.

“Y-you…” She stopped. Licked her dry lips. Swallowed. “You really are a conceited wanker, aren’t you?”

The insult fell from her in a rasping whisper.

Her belly churned. Her pussy fluttered.

Desmond’s lips curled in a slow, arrogant smile. “And yet, there’s something you really want to do to me now, isn’t there?”

Jess’s breath stuck in her throat. An image of them both utterly naked and dripping in sweat flashed through her head. Desmond was pinning her wrists to a wall with one hand as he yanked her leg up beside his hip, pumping deep and hard inside her with long, powerful thrusts.

A soft whimper escaped her at the thought.

Desmond’s pupils dilated at the sound. His nostrils flared. He held her imprisoned with his blue gaze, not moving, not drawing closer to her or touching her in any way. Just holding her with the potent force of his stare.

And the dominating hunger in his eyes. “Isn’t there, Captain Montgomery?”

Oh god. Oh god oh god oh—

“Submit to it,” he murmured, his voice a smooth caress, like velvet and whiskey and everything male she’d ever fantasied about. “Do what you want to do and do it now.”

“And if what I want is to knee you in the balls?” she whispered, even as her breasts grew heavier with the need to be touched…sucked.

“It isn’t.”

“What do you think I want to do, Des?”

His nostrils flared again. “Kiss me.”

Her pulse pounded in her ears. Her sex throbbed in perfect harmony, a rhythm of undeniable, wanton desire.

And surrender.

Oh god, was she really going to—

“Kiss me, Captain.”

It was the raw urgency she heard in his voice that undid her.

Before she could question her sanity, she gave herself over to the elemental desire searing through her. Surrendered to the unexpected need he awoke in her.

Submitted to it.

And kissed him.

End of Extended Sample

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