www.girl-gear . . . Harlequin Blaze
Squealing tires brought her head up in time to see, hear and feel
a souped-up muscle car roar into the parking lot. She frowned as
the classic El Camino pulled in next to her Jaguar with none other
than the thug himself behind the wheel. She stood with her keys
in her hand and remained unsmiling—not an easy task when Patrick
looked like hell on wheels and she knew him so very intimately.
Her stomach fluttered as if defying her efforts at staying unattached,
uninvolved. Even her hands trembled, holding her keys as she was,
and she clenched her fists tighter. It was her knees, however, that
gave her the most trouble. She took a step in reverse, backing smoothly
into her car door, telling herself she was simply moving out of
Patrick cut off the engine, turned to her and grinned the biggest,
baddest grin she’d ever seen spread over his face. The silver
hoop in his ear twinkled, as did his eyes when he pulled his sunshades
from his gorgeous face. But it was his expression of boyish delight
that was her undoing. This is what he’d looked like before
something—or someone—had robbed him of his innocence,
Annabel thought dazedly.
She drew in a breath that took far too much effort and gestured
toward his car. “What is this?”
“My car.” He climbed out and slammed the heavy door
against the equally heavy frame. “Don’t make ‘em
like this anymore.”
“Thank God for that,” she said, recognizing, as she
did, that no other car would fit him. They shared a definite bring-it-on
attitude. “You’ve had this in storage all this time?”
He shook his head, ran his palm lovingly across the bright red roof.
“Bought it this morning. Got tired of hitching in your cat
She ground her jaw until her molars ached. “You just went
out on the spur of the moment and bought a classic El Camino.”
“Totally restored. A beaut, isn’t she?”
A smile pulled at her pursed lips. “And I’m sure you’ve
given her a name?”
That devil’s grin again. “I was thinking of calling
her Annie. She’s sleek, sexy—” he waggled his
brows “—and hot under the hood.”
Oh, but he was cute. She folded her arms and strove to look stern.
“Where did you get the money?”
“Same place I got the money to buy you, sister.”
Hel-lo. “I would like to know.” Patrick made no effort
at finding work, yet never lacked for obscene amounts of cash.
His grin vanished, replaced by a slow growing yet visible wariness.
“Fine.” She turned back to the task of unlocking her
car door. His suspicion shouldn’t have hurt. She hated that
it hurt. “Don’t answer me. God forbid I know anything
personal about the man who’s fucking me.”
Two more weeks, no, less than that. Ten more days and he would be
out of her life. She could easily replace him in her bed . . . she
needed him for nothing.
Nothing, she insisted, infuriated at the sudden sting of tears that
“I’m sorry, Annabel.” His fingers kneaded her
neck, rattling her further when she needed to remain cool and detached.
When she didn’t answer, he lifted his hand. “Every penny
I have is on the up and up. Trust me.”
Her chest constricted. She whipped her gaze to his. “How can
I possibly trust you, Patrick, when you still don’t trust
He remained unmoving, unsmiling, poised as if on a precipice between
saving himself and sharing what might be enough for her to take
him down. When he glanced away, over and beyond the roof of her
car, she knew he’d made his decision. Still, his expression
“The money is mine, free and clear. There was a bounty on
Russell Dega and his band of pirates.” He narrowed his mouth,
looked toward her then away. “I would’ve split it with
the gang’s informant. But she didn’t make it out alive.”
Oh, God. Dear, God. Intuition told her this was the reason for his
lost innocence, the crux of his anger and pent up pain. He was hurt,
and dammit, but she did not know how to offer comfort. Sex wouldn’t
repair any of Patrick’s damage. Or any of her own.
Her heart began to race; her breathing quickened. Her world turned
upside down with the force of what she felt. And so she did the
only thing that seemed right. She turned to him and slipped her
arms around his ribcage, pressing her palms to the center of his
back between his T-shirt and jacket. Her cheek she pressed over
his heart that lurched and began to beat as rapidly as hers.
She heard a strangled noise echo in his throat as his arms went
around her. They stood like that for two minutes at least, unmoving,
focused and close. She was aware of him in ways she’d never
before taken time to examine, ways that were physical yet went beyond.
Today she wore flats. Patrick, as always, wore biker boots, putting
the top of her head just under his chin. He rested there, so that
she felt the grinding force of his jaw. She felt, as well, the bob
of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed the rest of the sound
she was sure she hadn’t been meant to hear.
A part of her wanted to ask what had happened, who had been the
informant and how had she died. But a less munificent part didn’t
want to know anything about any other woman who’d shared his
affections. She knew this one had in extraordinary circumstances,
and her own jealous thoughts made her feel very small.
She tightened her hold, nearly able to number Patrick’s ribs.
He was that lean, that spare and hungry, given to no excesses other
than often times drink and always in bed. She knew with a clear
certainty that he hadn’t been this way . . . before. That
he’d been a party boy, rowdy and as benign then as he was
And so as clear as she’d just been with herself about not
prying, she went ahead and did. “Tell me about her.”
A laugh that was sarcastic rather than joyous rumbled in his chest.
“Six weeks and you’re finally asking details.”
She’d always been curious; she knew no one who wasn’t.
But until now, until this moment, she hadn’t been sure she
wanted the responsibility of safekeeping his secrets or sharing
his pain. Now she had no choice.
Rejecting his tentative trust would kill the last trace of boy inside
him, and that she couldn’t do.
She breathed deeply, drawing in his warmth and the heady scent of
wildness he exuded. “Tell me about her,” she said with
more conviction. “I want to know everything.”
copyright 2004 Mica Stone
a novella in
Mother's Day Anthology
then, coming in late '04 and early '05 from Kensington Brava
. . . .
From the Files of SG-5...
Bad boys. Good spies. Unforgettable lovers.
Meet the men of the Smithson
Group—five spies whose best work is done in the field and
between the sheets. Smart, built, trained to do everything well—and
that’s everything—they’re the guys you want on
your side of the bed. Go deep under cover? No problem. Take out
the bad guys? Done. Play by the rules? I don’t think so. Indulge
a woman’s every fantasy? Happy to please, ma’am.
Fall in love? Hey, even a
secret agent’s got his weak spots…