Dash of Peril
March 25, 2014
A no-nonsense female cop reluctantly teams up with the one man who makes her lose control in a deliciously hot, sensual new novel that continues the Love Undercover series.
To bring down a sleazy abduction ring, Lieutenant Margaret “Margo” Peterson has set herself up as bait. But recruiting Dashiel Riske as her unofficial partner is a whole other kind of danger. Dash is 6’4″ of laid-back masculine charm, a man who loves life—and women—to the limit. Until Margo is threatened, and he reveals a dark side that may just match her own…
Beneath Margo’s tough facade is a slow-burning sexiness that drives Dash crazy. The only way to finish this case is to work together side by side…skin to skin. And as their mission takes a lethal turn, he’ll have to prove he’s all the man she needs—in all the ways that matter…
Her small bare feet left damp marks in the plush carpet as she moved ahead of him. “Where’s Ollie?”
“Curled in his bed in your living room, sound asleep.” Just as she’d said, the cat ate, cleaned himself, then snuggled down to sleep. “What about you? Are you hungry?”
“Not enough to stay awake.”
Without his prodding, she went past the home office, the spare bedroom and into her own room to gingerly sit on the foot of the bed.
Dash gave a quick glance around—and didn’t find a single surprise. Everything was as orderly as he’d expected it to be, her comforter a neutral cream color without the adornment of throw pillows, her nightstand and dresser clutter-free. He didn’t see a single speck of dust or a shoe out of place.
With Logan being a cop, he recognized the quick-access safe in the corner of the room. Since Reese had taken her weapon in the alley, he wondered if she had other guns locked in that safe. It was big enough to hold a rifle or two...and more.
Dash took in her bare calves and feet, her narrow wrists, her slender throat. So fragile, but still so strong. “Does anything hurt besides your head and arm?”
“Pretty much everything. But it’s not bad.”
Or were complaints of any kind as taboo as medicine? Had she come from a family of stoic martyrs?
“Your legs? Shoulders?”
Damp lashes shadowed her big blue eyes. “Mostly my arm and head.”
If she weren’t drugged, Dash doubted she would admit that much to him. “Okay. I’m going to dry your hair first.” Otherwise it’d just get her clothes wet. “Then we’ll get you dressed and you can sleep.”
“It’s short, so it doesn’t take long.”
Feeling equal parts tender and horny, Dash set her clothes on the bed beside her. “I like your hair, Margo. A lot.” He ran his fingers over her head. Her hair, in a Halle Berry sort of style, was curlier wet, but when dry it looked silky soft and feminine—a great contrast to her shark persona.
“Thank you. I like your hair, too. It’s always a little messy, and a lot sexy.”
Flirting? “Is that so?”
“You know how you look.” Her gaze moved down to his waistband. “You know how women react to you.”
Other women, sure. But Margo never made things easy. Despite her claims to the opposite, he already knew she was attracted to him. He felt her interest every time she looked at him. But she fought it.
She fought him.
Usually. Now...not so much.
But damn it, given her drugged state, he couldn’t really do anything about it. Or could he?
Pretending it meant nothing at all, Dash pulled both the soiled thermal shirt and the ripped undershirt off over his head and dropped them to the floor. The waistband of his jeans had loosened from extended wear and they hung low on his hips.
Margo’s lips parted. Breathing more deeply, she stared at the worn denim of his fly. Her pale throat worked as she swallowed. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t want you to get messy again now that you’re clean.” More bare than not, he stepped right in front of her, cupped her head in one hand, and used the towel in the other to carefully rub over her hair.
The sweet scent of her shampoo mixed with the warmth of her skin. He breathed her in—and felt himself reacting.
That wouldn’t do, so he concentrated on not getting hard as he continued to towel-dry her hair. “Tell me if I hurt you.” Very carefully, he touched the soft terry towel around her stitches.
When she said nothing, he looked down at her and found her eyes on his abs, her cheeks flushed. He would love seeing her like this more often.
“Yes.” She kept her injured arm, wrapped up in the half cast and Ace bandage, tucked up close to her body. With the other arm she balanced herself. Her toes curled into the carpet. “Dash?”
He mimicked her soft tone. “Hmm?”
“Have you ever been married?”
One brow lifted. “No.” And then he wondered... “You?”
“No.” She looked up at him. “Ever been in love?”
“Me, too. So?”
How to answer her? “I’ve had a few more serious relationships where I thought I was in love, but it never worked out.”
Apparently a drugged Margo was not only more openly sensual, but also far more curious. “My mother says I’m too particular and too set in my ways.”
Her cool fingers touched his ribs, drifted down to his abs, then hooked in the loose waistband of his jeans. “Particular how?”
He never should have started this ploy. It was difficult enough being near her, wanting to protect her, care for her, and then to have her looking at him with hunger...yeah, difficult.
But if she planned to touch him, too, he was screwed.
Or rather, not screwed, given she was definitely out-of-commission for that.
“Why don’t we have this conversation tomorrow, after you’ve gotten some sleep?” Not giving her a chance to object, he dropped the towel and used his fingers to brush back her hair, moving it away from her stitches. Her short, soft waves glided through his fingers. “Better?”
Her eyes sank shut. “Mmmm...” She leaned toward him again. “You have an incredible body. I especially like this happy trail, how it disappears down here—”
“Margo?” Time for another battle. “Hold up, honey.” He caught her wrist and lifted her hand to kiss her palm. “Even warriors wear out every now and then.”
“I’m not a warrior.”
“But you are too hurt for me to take advantage of you.”
She snorted. “I wouldn’t let you.”
“You,” he murmured, “are under the influence.” He crouched down in front of her. “I’ll help you get your clothes on, okay?”
She lifted her heavy eyelids to stare at his mouth. “No one has dressed me since I was three.”
“I’m sure that’s an exaggeration.”
“No.” She literally swayed. “My parents were strict about independence.”
He didn’t know her parents, but he liked them less by the minute. “Were they strict about other things?”
“About...everything really.” She shifted, winced and went still again. “My family is all in law enforcement.”
“Logan mentioned that once.” Something about her being a fourth generation of cops. Her dad was some hotshot chief of police before he retired early with a medical problem or something.
“I was supposed to be a boy.”
What did that mean? “I’m very glad you’re not.” He pushed back to his feet.
She gave a heavy sigh. “Me, too.”
Needing a minute to get his head on straight, Dash said, “I’m going to go grab the flannel shirt Logan brought me. It’s big enough to fit over your splint and it’ll be easier to get on you than the T-shirt you chose.”
“The only button-up shirts I have are starched dress shirts.”
He tipped up her chin. “Sit tight. I’ll be right back.” With long strides he left the room to get the bag Logan had brought to him. The cat snored from his bed, oblivious to Dash’s presence. Outside, a weak sun tried to penetrate heavy clouds rolling in. Great, just what they didn’t need—more lousy weather. Work at the current job site would stall for a day or two. Not a big deal since they were right on schedule—a rare thing in the construction business.
After automatically double-checking that he’d secured the front door, he snagged up the bag and dug out the flannel shirt on his way back to Margo.
He found her sitting exactly where he’d left her. Going to his knees again in front of her, he braced himself for what he’d do. “Let’s get you out of this robe first, okay?”
“I’ll be naked.”
Dash put his hands on her hips, his thumbs brushing her thighs through the soft cotton of her robe. “I’ll be as fast as I can.”
“You’ll want me.”
He searched her face and didn’t see a single sign of modesty or timidity. “Already do, but right now I just want you to be comfortable.” He untied the belt.
“If you tell Logan or Reese, I’ll castrate you.”
Not so drugged that she couldn’t threaten him. For absurd reasons, that made him feel better. “You think I would?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a great judge of men. Some men,” she amended.
“You can trust me.” He eased the robe off her right shoulder and down her arm until she slipped her hand free.
His blood thickened, and it sounded in his tone when he added, “Believe me, Margo. I would never say or do anything to embarrass you.”
Goose bumps rose on her flesh.
“Are you cold?”
Was being cold also considered a complaint? “I’m sorry.” Quicker now, Dash pushed back the material and, except for where the terry cloth draped one thigh and still covered her left arm, she was bare.
His gaze naturally went to her body. He was sympathetic, but not dead. Her uniforms and business suits did a great job of hiding her generous rack. Full, pale, with dusky mauve nipples. Only the bruises painted over her collarbone and shoulder kept him from touching her.
“Easy now.” Breathing more deeply, he stood to gently free her left arm.
Margo said not a word, but her face tightened, her brows pinching together, her lips compressed.
“You can groan, you know.” Dash hated seeing her suffer in silence. “You’re allowed.”
She gave one sharp shake of her head, composed to the bitter end.
To hell with that. “A groan or two won’t make you less sexy, especially when I can see your nipples.”
“They’re very pretty.”
“And those dark curls between your legs—”
She jerked her head up to stare at him—and groaned in discomfort.
“That’s it.” The way she affected him was so strange, and so appealing. “No reason to hold it in.”
Groaning again, deeper this time, she said, “Damn you.”
The bite in her tone almost made him smile. “Be yourself with me, honey.”
“No, you’re manning up and it’s stupid. You aren’t a man, and you aren’t impervious to pain.” He picked up the flannel shirt but made no attempt to put it on her. He was a freaking saint, standing there before a gorgeous naked woman and still remembering his altruistic motives. “Or is that another family rule? No female attributes allowed?”
“It’s a weakness and there’s no point in advertising it.”
“Huh. Well, if it makes you feel better, I would be groaning.”
She shocked him by pushing to her feet and leaning into him, her splinted left arm caught between them, her right hand flattening on his chest, her fingers in his chest hair. “Kiss me.”
Whoa. He hadn’t expected such an aggressive assault, given her state. “I don’t think so.”
“It’ll make me feel better.”
But it’d kill him—since she couldn’t do anything beyond a simple kiss. “Not a good idea.”
“You don’t want me?”
“You already know I do—” When her hand snaked down his body to cup him through his jeans, he froze.
“Yes,” she said with purring satisfaction. “You do.”