from my romantic suspense novel
....his hardened heart easily melted by having his beautiful wife with him after all this time. His tattooed and scarred body represented everything he had gone through for her.
“Leave us,” he ordered with a jerk of his head toward his two body guards.
The guards gave each other pointed looks from across the room, uncomfortable with leaving a cop alone with the man they were assigned to take bullets for.
Impatiently, Connor looked down at his feet, fists clenched. Through a tight jaw, he repeated more forcefully, “Leave. Now!” His tone roiling with deadly warning.
Scarlet’s heart contracted further as he spoke. The reality of just how little she knew this man was sinking in fast and hard. With her face resting against the cold window, she quickly shifted her eyes back to the hectic streets below. It would be so easy to slip away, disappear amongst a sea of tourists. But she was brave—or perhaps stupid was the word.
Against every warning her body, mind and soul were sending her, Detective Scarlet Ann Martins had to know what his reasons were. The only way she would get Alaric out alive was by getting into Connor’s mind. That thought alone sent waves of repulsion into every nerve in her body. She tried to fight against the sickening feeling bleeding into her very core. This had been her doing, she’d had the power to see and put a stop to this ten years ago. How messed up was she to have let him use her that way?
The guards moved quickly after that last warning, leaving the room with a silent shut of the door.
“It’s good to see you again.” Connor slipped a shirt on over his tight body.
“I’ve held up my side of the bargain. You need to let the hostage go.” Pulling the curtains closed, she crossed her arms over her chest, and waited for an answer. She kept her eyes on his, terrified to look at his face to discover what she might feel.
“I can’t do that.” Connor looked away, his eyes hard, his face resigned and void of any apology or explanation she was waiting for.
Things were growing more complicated by the second. If she fought too much for Alaric and his sister, Connor would catch on, might just kill them out of spite. “At least let the pregnant woman go.” She was testing him to see just how much he really knew.
Conner sighed. “She’s free to go wherever.” He stepped around the white sofa.
Scarlet studied him carefully. “You are having her watched, aren’t you?’
“If you want them alive, this is how it’s gotta be.”
“You are not going to let me go, are you?” She leaned back into the windowsill.
Connor moved a step closer, knowing he was the one now testing her reaction to him.
Scarlet willed herself to keep her cool under his scrutinizing gaze.
“I don’t blame you for falling for this guy.”
She smiled knowingly at him. “Sure.”
“Once this is over, you will understand why I did it.”
“No, I won’t.”
Connor took another step forward, getting so close to her he could smell her. How he’d missed the sweet scent of an intoxicating woman like her.
Noticing the way he was looking at her, it was blatantly obvious what he was thinking. And if she could bank on anything, it was how men like him would do just about anything for a good lay. She had to admit that when he took yet another step in her direction, she wondered if he was capable of taking it from her. But the true question was, would he kill her if she fought him off?
“You don’t have to be scared of me, Sam.” Connor looked right into her eyes. He was a changed man and she had to see that. His sacrifice had bled him dry, there was no turning back, there was only the now. “To keep you alive, I had to disappear, then took on this persona and went to jail to infiltrate the syndicate,” he tried to explain. “I want you because you respect and adore me, as I do you.” He bit the inside of his lip, fighting his manly urges. He had waited so long, he could wait a while longer. It had to be perfect.
“You must be all kinds of insane if you think I will ever consider you in that light again.” Scarlet lifted her chin in deviance, this too was a ploy to play to the man she thought she married.
“I gave up ten years of my life for this moment!”
“Yeah, and I gave five more than that.” Her voice was hollow as she said it.
“If there had been any way I could’ve told you what was going on, I would have.”
“Cut the shit, Connor. You tried to kill me, then had me framed. And that was after you took my life away from me, as your wife.” She thought of how deeply she’d grieved for him, and how badly grief had warped her. Then Scarlet thought of how in her life she’d actually never really had a real relationship. “Why in the hell am I still here?” Her hands flew out, unable to keep her anger contained. “What purpose do I serve in this scheme of yours? Haven’t you ruined me enough? Or am I just the spoils of war?”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“How is that flattering myself, you idiot? You are the one flattering yourself if you think you have that strong a hold on me, creep.”
“You’re mad, and that is good.”
“Go to hell!” Taking a deep breath, she reigned her temper in. “Please…just let me go, Connor. Take your shit and get the hell out of my life.”
“It’s not that simple.”
Scarlet had nothing to say, knowing it was horribly complicated. That she was so deeply weaved into this mess was beyond thought, and she had no idea where to even begin thinking of a way out. She needed answers. “Why?”
“The things we’ve seen.” He was referring to their time in the army, and suddenly all the history between filled in the reasons.
Connor took his last step, his shoulder resting on the wall next to her. He looked down at her. “Do you remember our last night together?” Then looking down noticed the chain around her neck.
“You kept it?”
Scarlet never answered. Yes of course she kept it, the chain meant so much to her then. Now it would serve as a reminder of a mistake she never wanted to forget.
Conner smiled gently. “Our last night,” Conner kept his gaze on her, continuing his audible thoughts.
She bit back at the dark memory, the night before the bombing that had supposedly killed her husband. She saw herself in his arms in a darkened room. It had been a lie, she thought with an aggrieved ache. She stared into his eyes while she thought it, because she was too cowardly to say it out loud. Or was it because she didn’t want him to know how much she had changed without him? How his death and fake heroic death made her stronger. He didn’t deserve the credit.
His voice was soft in the small space that separated them. “We spoke about how messed up things were, that corruption was a disease that would ruin the world, an infection that killed children, burned down villages of innocents. We spoke of running away…” His voice trailed off.
Thank the Lord, because his voice made her sick.
“Scarlet. Look at me,” he requested with some force, pulling her wrist as she tried to move away. “Our dreams were big and beautiful.”
She kept her heated stare true to his penetrating gaze, forcing her once forgotten emotions to the surface. A single, silent warm tear brimmed the edge of her eye and she broke loose from his grip. Stalking across the room to the mini bar, she yanked the bottle of whiskey from the glass shelf.
“Sam…” His voice was pleading.
She ignored him. He did not get to call her that anymore. Unscrewing the lid of the bottle, she took one giant swig, the liquid burning hot across her lips, igniting her chest and stomach with its potent numbing poison. She was going to need it if she was going to be stuck with him in the same room for the next few hours. Her eyes to his as he stood looking stupidly helpless, she took another swig from the bottle, feeling the stark edges starting to fray with each gulp.
But when he just stood there, the ever-building simmer she had held in began to boil over. “Shit!” She slammed the bottle down on the marble top, her eyes shooting up to his. “You let me believe my husband was dead! I’d rather have you dead than be a killer, because that is a reflection of who I am. I let you ruin me.” And as much as she wanted to hate and blame him for that, she shouldn’t.
Looking down, she poured whiskey into the nearest glass, making it half full and stared down at it as the amber liquid swirled around in the glass, the color reminding her of Alaric’s eyes. Her stomach pulled tight at the thought of him out there somewhere, alone and tied up. Was this really happening? Taking a sip and then another, she watched Connor over the rim of the glass as he walked toward her. Damn, with his every move in her direction, she wanted to scream, or hurt him.
Connor moved around the counter to stand behind her. He leaned forward, his body inches from hers.
All she could think of while his breath warmed the side of her face, was how sorry she was that she had dragged Alaric into her mess. All he’d ever done was look out for her, always putting her safety before his own.
His body pressed against hers from behind; she could smell him. She looked at her hands resting on the counter top before her…she had to do right by Alaric. With every last breath left in her she had find a way to get him out this mess alive, to tell him how deeply she appreciated what he had done for her. That she felt the same way he did. That their kiss and what followed after was the first time it just felt…real. And that she never wanted to get enough of.
During her silent thoughts, Connor’s hand moved to hers, his fingers gently taking the cup out of her hand. As if on auto-pilot, she brought up her foot, kicked him in the groin and slammed her head back into his, connecting with a bone crushing blow to his nose.
But Connor didn’t go down easily, prison had physically numbed him. The blow was more unexpected than painful, causing him to take a step back.
Leaping forward as she tried to get away, he slammed Scarlet against the counter, one hand on her shoulder, the other dangerously close to her throat. He could feel the erratic beat of her heart inside her heaving chest. Resting his forehead against hers he whispered, “Why did you do that?” Then let her go.
“Because I can’t stand being around you.” She couldn’t pretend anymore, afraid she might just get caught up in past lies.
“I could have killed you.”
“Let’s make a deal. Their lives for mine and my brother’s.” Connor stood in his towel, shoulders rigid, looking right into her soul knowing that this had just become a trade-off. “If you promise to let us get away.” Pausing, he watched her eyes sparkle at the possibility. “With the gold, that is,” he added. “Then I will promise to let him go.”
She shook her head.
“I won’t harm his family, as long as they don’t try anything stupid.”
She studied him for a moment. He wasn’t going to let her go, was he? “I’m not going to get a happily ever after, am I?”
Connor rubbed the side of his face. “I will never concede to you.” Because he knew she’d never let it go, that as long as detective Martins was out there, she’d come for him.
“You won’t kill me.” She raised her chin. She wanted to believe that she had some measure of influence over him, that somewhere deep inside Connor cared about what happened to her. And that she could use and manipulate that part of him.
“No, Samantha, he won’t. But I will.” Wyatt stood in the doorway, beaming in utter bliss.
Scarlet knew she would never know if Connor ever cared for her, and that she was perfectly okay with...