Book 2 in the Bounty Hunters Series
Join Rafe Vicentes for the ride of his life….and the woman who will take him there.
Rafe isn’t settling in as a bounty hunter. He likes the job well enough, but for him, the discipline is sadly lacking in the business. The former federal agent isn’t all that excited about working for an agency ran by a former stripper that has a secretary who is convinced she’s psychic. Still, he isn’t about to turn down a high paying job to find Sasha Petosky, madam to the rich and powerful in DC. He’ll just have to keep his attraction under control and finish the job.
Sasha isn’t in the mood for the pushy bounty hunter, any more than she’s in the mood to be on the run from an unknown enemy. She doesn’t really have a choice but to trust the sexy agent with her life. With killers on their tail, Rafe decides to take Sasha into hiding. Alone in a remote area, it is hard to keep their hands off each other. But when the men after Sasha come calling, protecting their hearts becomes secondary to staying alive.
Reader Interests in
Book 2 in the Bounty Hunters Series
The shrill ring of her earphone brought Sasha Petosky out of the most pleasant dream involving three men and whipped cream. She could almost taste the soft, airy sweetness as the constant ringing pulled her from her favorite fantasy.
“That’s yours, Sasha, not mine.”
She opened her eyes and looked toward the sound of Vic’s voice. He was propped against the doorjamb of her bedroom. His sandy blond hair was tousled from sleep, his eyes half-closed and glaring. Even as mean as he looked, she couldn’t help the little feminine thrill that raced through her at the sight of him. Vic was a big man, all muscle and testosterone. Dressed only in a pair of knit boxers, he was the picture of perfection. Even in the dim light she could see the washboard abs. Every time she saw him half dressed she couldn’t help a small feminine sigh in appreciation. It had been one of the reasons she’d been attracted to him to begin with. But then, once she got to know him, she realized that the charming smile she loved only came when he was in a good mood — which wasn’t often.
“You need to answer it. I’ll put some tea on.”
He tossed another glare in her direction and left without another word. The nasty look had been enough. She’d forgotten what a grump he was on just a few hours of sleep. Sighing, she thought — not for the first time — that being friends with your ex-husband wasn’t always a good idea.
The ringing continued and she picked up the earphone and slipped it on, pressing the small button on the underside of it.
“Sasha!” Stan, her assistant manager yelled.
“Stan. Please, no yelling.” She rubbed her temples at the familiar headache that had plagued her for the last couple of months. “What are you doing calling me at four in the morning?”
“The cops are everywhere. I didn’t know what else to do. Apparently, Betty freaked when Warwick dropped dead on her and called them. Now, I can’t find her, and they keep asking all kinds of questions about your relationship with him.”
With each word, his voice rose. Stan could be a bit … melodramatic, but even this was beyond his usual performance. “Give me twenty minutes and tell the cops I’ll be there.”
“Oh, thank God! I wanted to call you right off, but they pulled us in and started questioning us.”
“Sit tight. I’ll be there.”
She clicked off her phone before he could say anything else. With Stan she could be on the phone for hours over a broken nail. How his wife handled him, Sasha had no idea. A few hours a day and she was ready to throttle him. However, the man knew how to manage a club, and he never expected favors from the girls.
Stretching her arms over her head, she tried to gather her thoughts. Anything that brought in the Capitol Police wasn’t a good thing. They could shut down Sinner’s Delight just for kicks because of the investigation. She knew there was a movement within certain circles to illegalize adult clubs again, although she doubted it would happen … Just her luck to have a government official drop dead. Sasha didn’t even want to know what his wife would do and unfortunately, this one had the power to do it.
She slipped out of bed and grabbed up her robe. Before she had the sash tied, Vic returned.
“Problems?” he asked as he handed her a mug.
“You are a god.” She took a long breath in, enjoying the aroma.
As she took a sip, he quirked one eyebrow and then crossed his arms. “That isn’t what you said to the judge when we got divorced — or when I showed up here last night.”
“What did you do this time to be thrown out?”
He let loose an aggravated sigh. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
She regarded him over her cup. “You know, you can say that to other people and they buy it. However, I was married to you. I know just what a pain in the ass you are to live with.” She took another sip. Vic wasn’t a bad guy. He was loyal to the bone, but he had a tendency to be single-minded and cranky. “So, knowing you don’t cheat, what did you do? Forget a birthday?”
“I’m not living with a woman.”
She absorbed the information as she took another sip. “Vic, really? I had no idea you went that way.”
He gave her an evil look. “I don’t mean that way. My new partner, as in working partner, moved in with me. He had some family in. I forgot. Besides, I gave up living with women about six months ago.”
“That explains why I haven’t had to put you up for the night for awhile. But why couldn’t you stay there? I mean, you have a pretty big place.”
“I felt it was best I left after scaring the bejesus out of his seventeen-year-old sister. Who, I might add, sleeps like the dead, because I was naked and crawling into bed before she screamed.”
She cleared her throat trying to suppress the unholy giggle that threatened to erupt. The image his words evoked was so comical, she didn’t know how she would hold off. Vic was constantly uptight about dating younger women, let alone someone who would be young enough to be a daughter.
“And not one comment out of you. Freaking bad enough that she called me a pervert.”
She snorted but his narrowed gaze had her swallowing the rest of the laugh. Knowing she needed to get to Sinner’s Delight, she went to her closet, pushed the button and waited for the door to slide open.
“Unfortunately, that tale will have to wait. I have to get down to Sinner’s.”
He followed her into the walk in closet. “What do they need you for? Must be something important to get you out of bed.”
“You know Eddie Warwick?”
He nodded. “Head of the Universal Security Council?”
“Yeah, that one. He’s one of my customers.”
“What does that have to do with you? Not like you work the ropes.”
Vic had avoided the whole idea of her owning a legalized brothel since she bought into it a few years ago. He didn’t have problems with the clubs. Nevertheless, she knew he really didn’t like her around the business. And being the Neanderthal that he was, he hated the idea that his ex-wife might work there. “Well, said Mr. Warwick dropped dead while being … serviced by one of my girls.”
He whistled. “Holy shit, Sash, you’re going to have a media circus when this gets out.”
She pressed the button for the sweater compartment of the closet. The door glided open and the drawer slid out. She pulled two sweaters out, one purple and the other red, and debated which to wear. Lord knew the media would probably be there causing a fuss. “Tell me about it. It probably already is. Betty freaked out when he dropped dead on her and called the police. And I have no idea what she was doing there because Destiny was supposed to be there.” She sighed, deciding to go with purple, returned the red one to the drawer, and pulled the sweater over her head. “Some days I just want to run away.”
Grabbing a pair of black slacks, she stepped into them and then pulled on a pair of boots.
“That’s not like you.” When he didn’t continue, she glanced at him and found him frowning at her. “You said you loved that place.”
She pushed him out of her way, and then walked into the bathroom. “I did, but lately, it’s getting to be a pain. All the regulations, and now this. Maybe it’s time I sold. I could get a lot for it and with Janice gone it isn’t fun.”
He stepped behind her and slid his hands around her waist. When he caught her gaze in the mirror, nothing but sympathy shone in them. They were long past anything sexual. “I was sorry to hear about that.”
Pain squeezed her heart at the thought of Janice’s murder. It had been months and even though she didn’t cry anymore, she still felt as if she lost a part of herself. “Thanks, Vic.” She sighed, fighting past the emotion clogging her throat. She didn’t need to have her feelings in turmoil when she went to Sinner’s. “Her sister didn’t take it well. I’m worried about what she’ll do. She has some kind of idea that Warren is responsible for her sister’s death.”
He cocked his head. “Sorta is his fault, don’t you think. But then she stayed with the bastard and lied to keep him safe. And he pays her back by leaving her unprotected. So, in a way it was. Besides, what could her sister do?”
“You’ve never met Syd. She’s a force of nature. And where Janice wasn’t the brightest bulb, Syd is a walking encyclopedia.”
She tugged free of his arms and brushed her hair and teeth. After pulling her hair up into a twist and clipping it, she rushed out.
“You want me to go with you?”
He made the offer and she knew how much it cost him. Even as a computer nerd type of cop, having an ex who ran a brothel wasn’t great for your career. Showing up with her in the middle of the night when a high level official had died in her brothel would be disastrous.
She kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks, Vic. But I can handle it. I hope I won’t be long.”
He sighed. “I’ll be gone. I have some work to do.”
She smiled and patted his cheek. “You’re welcome to stay another night, as long as you bring home supper.”
He returned her smile, and again, she sighed. The man was lethal when he did that. “Don’t worry; I remember my payment from my days of incarceration.”
“You know, I should kick you out for referring to our marriage as a jail sentence.”
“Just using the words you did when you said you wanted a divorce.”
* * *
By the time she arrived at Sinner’s it was a mess. Press was all over the parking lot. She paid her cabbie and stepped out of the glider cab. Before she had taken two steps, the hounds came rushing at her. For just a split-second, panic swirled in her chest. The horde of men and women coming toward her held her frozen for a few seconds. Sasha didn’t do well in crowds and having them approach her like a pack of hungry wolves sent alarm crashing through her. Her childhood claustrophobia was back in full force.
“What was Warwick doing at your club?” one man shouted at her.
She blinked as someone flashed a bright light in her eyes. That seemed to bring her out of her trance and helped her push her way through the crowd. She ignored her rising fear even as one overzealous reporter grabbed at her sweater.
Jerking her arm, she pulled it free of his grasp. “I have no comment until I speak to the Capitol Police and find out what the hell is going on.”
She brushed past the reporters, ignoring their pleas for more information. She tried her best to give them a calm façade, however, irritation and worry marched down her spine and her stomach threatened to revolt. She refused to let the freaking jackals know they had rattled her.
As she reached the door, it opened, and Donny, the head of her security, stepped out. The sound of footsteps seemed to dissolve the moment the crowd got a look at him. Six-foot-five, two hundred and fifty odd pounds of pure muscle seemed to convince them that maybe bothering her wasn’t a good idea.
“Sorry, Sasha. I didn’t know you were here or I would’ve tried to meet your cab.” The worry in his eyes forced her to smile to reassure him. He was a giant, but a gentle one unless you got on the bad side of him. His long blond hair and blue eyes spoke of his Nordic heritage and fed into the image of being a warrior. The hardened, muscular body helped too.
“No problem, Donny. I take it the police are still here?” she asked as she stepped past him into the club. At once, she felt the sharp shaft of pain she’d felt since Janice had been murdered three months earlier. Always one with a good joke, Janice would’ve been thinking of all kinds of inappropriate jokes about Warwick dying in the act. It wasn’t the first time since they opened the club, but this was the most highly ranking government employee they’d had drop dead.
“Yeah. They got here about two hours ago, asking all kinds of questions. Like it’s our fault Warwick had heart problems.”
The first thing she noticed when she walked through the door was the number of officers milling around the entryway. As she studied them, she realized that most of them were gathered around the areas where her girls were standing. She rolled her eyes. No wonder there were so many of them around. Once the area was secure, most of them should have left. Some things never change.
“Donny, make sure you keep an eye on those officers. I don’t need any problems with them, and there are no freebies.”
Without a word, Donny headed off in the direction of where most of the officers were standing.
“I don’t think you need to worry about that, Ms. Petosky.”
She turned to face Inspector Walton, the lead vice investigator for the CP. He wasn’t a tall man, but he made up for it with charm and looks. Short brown hair kissed by the sun had turned the tips golden. He made most of the girls at Sinner’s just melt when he smiled at them, dimples included, and those green eyes turned mischievous. Sasha could see how he succeeded in Vice where most detectives were as cynical as the day was long. If he bore the same scars as his co-workers, he did an excellent job hiding it.
Sasha would’ve tried her damnedest to seduce him if he hadn’t been a cop. Being married to one and now having him haunt her apartment every time he drove a woman to kick him out was enough to fill her plate. Still, Walton hadn’t indicated any thoughts in that direction. The fact that he and Vic knew and hated each other probably didn’t help the situation. Walton also stuck to the rules and sleeping with her would be a tad too gray in his black and white world.
She smiled. “Inspector. I’m glad to see they have placed a good cop on this one. But, I’m confused on why they sent Vice.”
He returned her smile, albeit a little strained. She sensed there was something else going on that he didn’t want her to know. Or he didn’t want to tell her. Swallowing a wave of panic that clawed at her gut, she tried her best to slow her heartbeat. It had to be very bad for Walton to be covering up something.
“I’m considered the lead on this one. I moved from Vice a couple weeks ago.”
“Hmm. Well, can you tell me just what happened?”
Before he could answer, Stan came rushing around the corner. He wore his usual black suit, but his tie was off center. His jacket and pants were wrinkled as if he’d slept in them, and his face was flush with exertion.
“Sasha! Oh, thank God you are here.” He tossed a nasty look in Walton’s direction, then took hold of Sasha by her upper arms. “Don’t say a word until you talk to a lawyer. You have to protect your interests, your rights!”
Again, with each sentence his voice rose. “Stan, take it easy. I’m sure Walton here just wants to straighten everything out.” She shrugged. “No biggie.”
“No. No! Sasha –”
“I think we can handle this, Skinner.” The threat in Walton’s voice caught her off guard. When she glanced at him, the regret she saw in his eyes sent a cold ball of ice to her stomach.
“What division are you with now?”
He sighed, his lips turning down in anger or irritation, maybe a combination of both.
She flinched at the word as she tried to comprehend why he was there.
Stan released her arms, placed his hand on her shoulder, and leaned in closer. “Sasha, they think Warwick was killed, and they think one of us had something to do with it.”
* * *
Sasha rubbed her temples and closed her eyes against the glaring overhead light. She had no idea what time it was, but she knew it had been hours since she’d been brought in. Walton had wanted to be her interrogator, but his supervisor had nixed the idea, citing a past relationship between her and Walton. It wasn’t as if they’d slept together, and they had never seen each other on a social level. And he definitely didn’t use her club. Now she wished she had slept with him. Sasha knew just from their brief acquaintance, he would make an excellent lover, and it would make up for the hell she’d endured. All without an adequate amount of caffeine and no food. Sasha had endured too many hungry years as a child and she rarely skipped a meal now. In other words, she was one cranky bitch
“So, if you could go over it again, Ms. Petosky.”
She gave Fender a dirty look. He was the captain of the division, Walton’s supervisor. At least forty pounds overweight, he still combed his hair over his shiny head in apparent hopes that no one would notice he was balding. A politician at heart, he wanted something more from her than the truth. She’d have stood a better chance with Walton who would have gone by the book. This slime ball would sell his mother out if it meant more political capital. Catching the “killer” of the head of the USC definitely would be a feather in his cap.
This situation had all the makings of bad news for her. Dead customers, especially a well-known one who was married like Warwick, would bring money. As morbid as it was, people would want to be in the place, to see where he died. Especially since he died fucking a high-priced whore. However, if it was murder, she was in for another mountain of paper work and lawyer fees.
“I have nothing more to add until I speak to my lawyer. I know my rights.”
His lips thinned as he curled them inward. She noticed his hands twitching as if fighting the urge to throttle her. The silence stretched until several of the assisting officers shifted their feet trying to ease the tense atmosphere. Fender approached the table and shifted his hip on to it.
“You lost your rights …”
The door slid open and revealed a very irritated Vic. Sasha felt the anxiety that had filled her stomach ease a bit, but with Vic present, there was a new worry. She didn’t want him to punch Fender. With three reprimands already for his inability to get along with others, Vic would lose his badge over this one.
“Fender, I think you can let Ms. Petosky go.” Vic’s voice left no one at a loss about his feelings. Venom dripped from each word and he was big enough to back up the threat. Fender, with his extra weight and his years behind the desk, wouldn’t stand a chance against Vic. He might be a computer nerd, but the man could probably snap Fender like a twig.
Fender eased his hip off the table, then said, “And just what authority do you have here?”
Vic smiled. It was one of those evil smiles he gave people he was about to crush. She usually felt a little sorry for the person caught in the crosshairs, but she had little sympathy for a rat like Fender. Vic pulled out his e-reader and powered it up. After hitting a few buttons, the hologram image of an order signed by the Police Commissioner Jasper appeared.
“By order of Jasper she’s to be released. You find something on her, or anyone in her club, you know where to find her.”
The grim satisfaction in his voice almost made Sasha smile. Before she could relish Fender’s put down, Vic wrapped one hand around her upper arm and pulled her out of the chair.
“Detective Ashley, you have no authority here!”
Vic tossed one of his nasty looks over his shoulder. “Tell ya what, Fender. Why don’t you go and tell the PC to suck an egg. I’m sure the department will cover the hospital stay, after he’s done tearing you a new asshole.”
Fender swallowed and tugged at his shirt collar. His gaze moved from Vic to rest on her face. “Fine. But understand that you are not to leave the area. Other than your home, if you must leave DC proper, you will check in here first and get permission.”
Vic’s fingers flexed on her arm. Worried he would end up without a job after cold cocking Fender, she brushed her fingers over his to let him know it was okay. Without another word, both of them left. Vic steered her through the throngs of people gathered in the halls. He nodded to a few acquaintances, but said nothing else. The moment they stepped out the front doors, a cold burst of air had her shivering, and the sunlight, even as weak as it was, had her squinting.
She glanced at Vic, who already had donned his sunglasses. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell what he was feeling, but she could by the flexing of his jaw.
“I’m sorry –”
“Don’t.” He practically dragged her down the steps and to his car. He unlocked his car, shoved her into the front seat, and then walked around the hood and joined her inside. “We’ll talk about it at your apartment.”
It took only a few moments to get to her building, but the tension was ready to kill her. She was not only worried about the club closing. Now she had murder charges and a very grumpy ex who might have just screwed up his career to help her.
He parked in her space, since she didn’t have a car. Once they were in the elevator, she couldn’t take the silence anymore.
“Vic, I really appreciate everything you did.”
Looking at the numbers as they lit up, he nodded. Sasha sighed, all the memories of her reasons for divorce cropping up. Vic tended to brood, as did Sasha. Not a good combo. And, just like during their short marriage, irritation took control of her mouth in these situations.
They reached her floor and were stepping out of the elevator when she tried again, none too gently this time.
“Vic, I want you –”
The look he shot her stopped her in mid sentence. “I said in your apartment.” Every word was perfectly spoken from behind clenched teeth. “These walls might have ears.”
She keyed in her security code, then used her thumb print for verification. The door slid open. She moved to step in and Vic stopped her with a hand on her arm. He pulled out his weapon and stepped in front of her, quietly taking stock of the apartment. Countless seconds later, her nerves already raw, he returned.
“It’s safe.” He placed a black box on the table and flipped a switch. “Kills any listening device.”
She nodded and stepped into the room, allowing the door to slide shut behind her. After taking off her coat, and resting it on the back of a dining room chair, she collapsed on the chair next to it.
“I’m so tired.”
He studied her for a minute. “This isn’t going to be so easy to get out of, Sash.”
She sighed, knowing he was right. The police were suspicious for a reason. If they had a reason, or evidence, then something else was going on. Whatever it was, she seemed to be a target.
“I don’t know what to do.”
He rested his hand on her shoulder, then squeezed. “We’ll figure something out.”
The moment he said it, the front door slid open, revealing a rather dashing man, dressed in black, accompanied by two men, about the size of Vic.
“How reassuring, Detective Ashley.” The man’s voice seeped of sarcasm and anger. “But I think that you might need to reevaluate the situation.”
The man nodded and the brute on his left stepped around him, aiming his stun gun at Vic, and shot. Before Vic could react, he was hit. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he slid to the floor. Fear curled into her stomach as she sat, frozen by the actions of the men, feeling as if she let Vic down in some way. Before she could react, brute number two grabbed her arm and yanked her up.
Their leader said, “Ms. Petosky, I think we need to have a bit of a chat.”
End of Excerpt
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Oct 3, 2011