Authors: Shayla Black
Tags: #Embezzlement Investigation, #Kidnapping, #Brothers, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Erotic Stories, #Erotic Fiction, #Erotica, #Fiction
His anger spiked like Mount Saint Helens. Where the hell was he, anyway? And why? Suddenly, nausea annoyed him like a bad case of the flu, and his bladder kicked in again.
This just got worse and worse.
Rafe shifted his weight and stared at his captor. Captress? Was there such a word? Either way, he should have suspected something fishy from Kerry’s behavior last night. He’d known her voice wasn’t real, but he’d been too distracted to give her subterfuge much thought. A “hostess,” was she? First night on the job? Yeah, right. No wonder she had seemed nervous in the limo. She’d been breaking the law!
Slowly, Kerry edged toward him again. “If you’ll just let me explain—”
Snarling, he charged toward her again. Gasping and wide-eyed, Kerry stepped just beyond the reach of his bonds once more. When he came up inches short of her, Rafe cursed, something low and ugly.
“If my business and my reputation are ruined because of you, because I didn’t show up for the Standard National job, I swear what I’ll do to you will make murder look like a kids’ game.”
“You don’t have to threaten on me,” she shouted. “I’m not going to hurt you, and I won’t take much of your time.”
Rafe resisted the urge to pound his fist on something. “Is this about money?”
“No,” she assured. “Like I tried to tell you, I need your help. I’m not going to hurt you, if that’s what you’re worried about. And—and I’m so sorry about drugging and tying you up—”
“Drugging—” He hadn’t even earned this lousy hangover the fun way? “No wonder I feel so crappy. We didn’t have sex, did we?”
Her cheeks flushed pink again. “No.”
As strange as Kerry was, part of him wished they had. Really wished it.
Had someone beat him with the stupid stick last night? She’d duped him, distracted him with that that minuscule red halter and tantalizingly brief skirt in order to slip something in his drink so she could abduct him. And he, brainless bastard that he was, hadn’t quite forgotten her addictive kisses. Apparently, every last one of them had been a lie. That infuriated
him as much as the abduction itself. And her weird phone calls over the last few weeks. The day—hell, his life—was deteriorating faster than a Trojan virus could eat a hard drive’s contents. And Kerry was responsible.
“Can I get you something? Breakfast?” Kerry sounded so earnest, as if intent on pleasing a houseguest.
“To hell with breakfast! Unlatch these and let me go.”
Regret softened the oval of her face. “I can’t. You’re my best hope.”
Her imploring tone did not mix well with the anger churning in his gut—or the fact he still needed the bathroom. “I’m your best hope for what? Your sanity? Let me give you a clue, this scheme has convinced me you don’t have any.”
Annoyance tightened her face. “I’m perfectly sane, just trying to keep my brother out of prison. I really tried to explain that on the phone, not that you listened.”
“I was supposed to get that from your ramblings about someone having chemotherapy and getting married?” This just got stranger and stranger. “So, what? You’re holding me in exchange for his freedom?”
She shook her head. “I think you can prove him innocent. I just need—”
Rafe took a deep breath and counted to ten. “Look, I’m not anyone’s hope and I can’t help you with your brother. Release these damn restraints now. I’ve got a job to do.”
“I know, fixing the security at Standard National. That’s why you’re here. Mark, my brother, is the employee accused of embezzling.”
Ah, now he was getting somewhere. “And you want me to doctor some files to make him look innocent?”
“Of course not! He
innocent. You don’t have to doctor anything, just find out how he was framed.”
Rafe scoffed. “What makes you so sure he isn’t guilty?”
Kerry’s mouth tightened, her eyes narrowing. No doubt, he’d genuinely pissed her off. Good, then. That made them even.
“Mark is too honest. He would
“Sweetheart, you’re talking about three million dollars. For that kind of cash, a lot of men would look the other way when their ethics came calling.”
Mark!” Kerry crossed her arms over her
chest and glared. “Look, I only need a little bit of your time. I know next to nothing about computers, you only take corporate clients and charge an arm and a leg. I figured that someone with your reputation and background who would already have access to Standard National’s files would be my best chance to help Mark. I mean, you hacked into the CIA at nineteen, so digging through bank records to help—”
“How did you find that out?” The event, and the subsequent deep shit he’d landed himself in, wasn’t something he advertised.
“That’s not important now.” At his glower, she went on, “Look, I know I’ve done something terrible—”
“Try illegal,” he ground out. “Which I’ll make sure you pay for.”
“I truly am sorry for all the trouble—”
“The minute I get free, I’m making sure your ass rots in jail, right along with your brother.”
“Please! You are the only way I could think to save Mark. With your skill, you should be able to find out why the bank is so convinced he’s guilty.”
“Did the fact he probably is ever, even for a second, cross your mind?”
“Right,” he drawled. “What are you, Pollyanna with a rap sheet?”
“I know you’re angry, but I’m desperate. I just need a little help. Please.”
Her big green eyes, framed by naked, golden lashes and sunshine curls, made him hesitate. If anything, his erection stiffened even more. No doubt, helping Kerry with a whole lot of things—like out of her clothes—would be no hardship.
Then, with a shake of his head, he remembered the problem. “Help you take away my freedom and commit a crime? Hell no! If I tamper with bank records like that, what the government will do to me will make your brother’s prison term look like playtime in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. You’re certifiable if you think I’m going to let you push me into something stupid and against the law. I’ll give you a clue, sweetheart: I. Will. Not!”
Kerry stepped closer, face imploring. Lord, she smelled good, like sunshine and sea salt and vanilla.
Damn it, he’d been kidnapped by a ditz, and his libido chose now to notice how great she smelled? How back asswards was that?
he demanded of himself. How could he get out of here? Rafe glanced around the room, not seeing a single weapon in sight. A quick glance down Kerry’s body confirmed she wasn’t concealing anything on her luscious person. He gritted his teeth. At least that added credence to her assertion that she meant him no harm. Besides, according to her, he’d been out for thirty-six hours. If that was the case, she’d had plenty of time to strangle him or carve him up or whatever a psycho might do. It made sense that she’d concocted this crazy scheme to get his assistance, rather than do him in. Maybe he just had to keep talking, play her game, in order to win his freedom. Certainly, trying to jump on her again wasn’t the way to make nice.
“I’m not asking you to tamper, just look. If you don’t, my brother will go to prison. He’s all I have, I love him, and I owe him for damn near raising me.”
Rafe started to interrupt, but Kerry’s eyes misted over. Her chin wobbled as she fought tears. Whatever he could say about her—and he could say plenty—she was genuinely distraught. He swallowed his smart-ass comment and tried to figure out what to do, how to use her distress against her.
Uncomfortable silence filled the room. Her beseeching stare morphed into a glare.
“Are you listening? I’ve gathered that’s not one of your skills. If you don’t hear anything else I say, believe that Mark would never steal from the bank. He loved that job.”
She was criticizing him? She rambled like a loon and somehow that was his fault? “Forgive me if I don’t take the word of a kidnapper that her brother isn’t a thief!”
“Do you need to yell? I know you’re angry, and I don’t blame you.” She shook her head, regret and a snit of temper etched on her face. “But yelling won’t help.”
“I think I’m pretty calm, considering the fact you’re trying to screw up my life and my professional reputation.” He flung
his arms wide. “Not to mention that you’ve got me restrained like some drooling lunatic in an asylum.”
Kerry went all wide-eyed and pink. What was wrong with her? A moment later, he realized that, in the heat of his speech, he’d dropped the sheet. He should cover up, he supposed, but if his nudity brought her some measure of discomfort, well, score one for him.
He cocked his head and smiled. “Or are you a dominatrix and I’m your new plaything? You got the handcuffs going on, and I see you staring . . .”
With an angry glare, Kerry turned away. “You wish. We’ll talk about this when you’re calm. If you still need the bathroom, it’s through that door”—she pointed two feet to the right—“along with your toothbrush and toiletries. Your restraints should allow you to walk about ten feet, more than enough to go to that bathroom.”
Damn it, he wanted to finish this conversation now, but Mother Nature wasn’t about to wait another moment.
And neither was Kerry, he realized when she walked out the door and slammed it behind her.
o clocks. No books. No TV. No radio, even. And damn it, no computer. Rafe hadn’t been away from e-mail this long since high school. Frozen honey moved quicker than time here, wherever here was. Hours passed. He knew that because the sun was finally sinking over the spectacular ocean view his little prison provided. He had only his thoughts to keep him occupied in the brittle silence of Kerry’s little dominatrix den. And they weren’t happy thoughts.
Leaping from the bed, he paced to a little window, ignoring the swaying palms, the white sand, and the whisper of the ocean. He opened the panes and let in the waning golden sunshine—but he could not let himself out, not without a pair of wire cutters or the perfect-sized wrench. Short of such tools, his restraints would stay firmly in place.
Already, he’d done all he could within his bounds, made full use of the bathroom, including the decadent shower, inspected the bedroom and adjacent sitting room. He’d even
tried to make his way down the long hall, only to be stopped short, just before the closet, which he’d bet held his clothes. Rafe assumed Kerry was somewhere beyond his reach, still sexy, silent, and avoiding him. Not that it mattered. Her interest in him had never been more than pretend.
Rafe wished he could say the same. Why he should sweat every time he came within five feet of the little criminal, despite his anger, was beyond him. But he couldn’t deny that she made him hot.
Nothing. The woman had refined the cold shoulder into an art form, dripping with icicles.
Silence usually suited him. He lived alone. He often worked alone. Cool by him. But silence from Kerry went beyond cool, to something more like the frigid depths of the North Pole under a hundred-foot sheet of ice. Graveyards were livelier than this place. Damn it, how long would the woman just leave him here to die of boredom?
“Kerry!” he shouted.
Still nothing. Rafe cursed. She was one stubborn woman, part grudge-holder, part mule. She was here—he felt her, heard snatches of her whispered voice as she talked on the phone, heard her slamming around the kitchen.
“Damn it, woman! This is ridiculous. I have a job to do!”
More time passed in utter silence. Could have been an hour, could have been three minutes. Apparently, she didn’t care for his opinion or his agitation.
Rafe flopped down on the bed again. Now what? She’d made herself clear that she wasn’t going to speak to him again until he stopped shouting and listened to her inane suggestion that he help her brother, who was probably as innocent as Al Capone.
People could be so unreasonable and unbalanced. One of the reasons he preferred computers. At least when machines became unstable, you could fix or ignore them. People . . . they never worked that way. They only got more annoying.
A click and a turn of the knob announced Kerry’s entrance. He looked up to find her standing in the doorway with a wary gaze. Anger bubbled at the surface . . . until an involuntary jolt of lust surged through him at the sight of her, sizzling him
all the way to his toes. Apparently he responded to her from more than five feet away. Wasn’t he lucky?
Despite feeling like a panting idiot, he couldn’t look away. The pale innocence of her face contrasted with the bare curve of her hip, visible between her low-rise jean shorts and brief tee, looking provocative as hell. She was part angel . . . mostly devil. Holy sucker punch to the gut.
He couldn’t remember the last time a woman got to him this way. Besides being sexy, Kerry was inventive and determined—as his abduction proved. Even though she’d turned those talents to incarcerating him, he had to give her credit for grit. And she was damn loyal to this brother of hers, risking her own neck to try to save his. Stupid, since the guy was probably beyond guilty, but she’d sure put herself on the line. Had he ever known anyone so devoted?
“Would you like something to eat?” she said without preamble.
“Yes, I’m starving.”
“You don’t have to snap at me.”
Rafe glared at her. “You kidnapped me, remember? Pardon me if being the victim of a crime doesn’t put me in a great mood.”
Kerry rolled her eyes. “Please, I don’t have a weapon, so I couldn’t hurt you if I tried, and we both know it. You’re not exactly a victim, more like a temporary, albeit unwilling, houseguest.”
“That’s like saying someone is slightly dead.”
With a huff, she exited the room, returning a few minutes later with a plate of scrambled eggs and toast slathered with strawberry jam. Not exactly Sardi’s, but he quickly ate the eggs, then started in on the toast when the orange sun inched closer to the horizon. Fiery rays slanted into the room—into his eyes, adding bitter to his already sour mood. Rafe cursed and squinted.
“I’ll fix it.”
Kerry murmured as she made her way to the window. She turned her back to him.
. He could launch himself at her, take her down from behind. Rafe dropped the toast,
preparing to strike. Once he had her under control, he’d force her to . . .