Kane was slick, and he could be mean when he had to. Merinus knew that. No one messed with him, and most people in his little world owed him enough favors that he rarely had to ask for anything twice.

“Geez, Merrie, why don’t you just pounce on them yourself if you have all the fucking answers?” Kane bit out.

Merinus bit her lip, painfully aware of the bruise across the left side of her face now. Yeah, that one worked really well.

“Okay, I can do that,” she mused thoughtfully. “They looked kinda big, but hey, maybe if I throw your name around a little—” She should have thought of that one yesterday.

“Dammit,” he cursed. “You would, too. Okay. Okay. Just hang on a few hours and let me see what I can find out here. Stay out of trouble, dammit, until I can find something out.”

“I always stay out of trouble,” she lied smoothly. If Kane knew the trouble she was getting into he would come down, tie her hand and foot and haul her back to New York so damned fast it would make her head spin.

“Yeah. Right.” He grunted absently.

“I’ll be waiting on you.” Evidently he was already hard at work on his trusty little computer.

“You do that,” he mumbled, then disconnected.

Merinus sighed roughly as she flipped the phone off then tossed it on the bed. Dammit. Like she was going to sit around and play dead while he hunted around the Internet for a source of information. Bruise or no bruise, she was hardly finished. And she was growing tired of this game she was playing with Callan.


Glancing at the clock, she winced at the time. Late morning. She had definitely overslept. A shower and lunch first though, then she was tracking Callan Lyons down and that was that. If she had to stake out that damned gas station until hell froze over. Her phone rang, interrupting that furious thought.

“Well, that was fast enough,” she said as she brought it to her ear. “Did you threaten their balls or what?”

There was silence over the line. Merinus frowned.


“Maybe you didn’t need as much help as I thought you did yesterday.” The male voice was low, rumbling and filled with amusement. “Any woman who could threaten such an important area is tough enough to take on a few mercenaries.”

“Or the asshole that left her unconscious all night,” she bit out. “Callan Lyons, we aren’t going to get along if you keep up like this.”

That brought a definite chuckle.

“Who said we had to get along, darlin’? I was trying to help out some. That scream you blasted out rocked my mountain.”

“Well, big boy, tell me where to find you and I’ll come thank you, real personal like.” Like her foot up his ass for being so damned difficult.

“Hm, tempting offer,” his voice dropped, becoming huskier. Merinus breathed in long and silent. Oh, what that voice did to her insides. Any minute now her juices would be running from her cunt right down her leg.

“You don’t sound tempted enough.” She grinned, her own voice lowering, becoming silky, intimate.

“Come on, Callan, surely you don’t want to have to rescue me again? I’m not going to give up, ya know?”

There was that silence again.

“You sound soft, Merinus, too damned soft for what you’re up against,” he finally sighed.

“Callan, I can’t give up.” She sat down on the bed, gripping the phone tightly. “You have to talk to me. I have things to show you, things I have to tell you that can only be done in person.”

“I’m not a story, pretty lady, and I know that’s what you’re after,” he told her, his voice so gentle, so soothing she felt stroked, petted.

“Perhaps you are,” she answered. “Why would you be hiding from me if you weren’t? All I want to do is talk.”

“Maybe I wouldn’t stop with talk,” he suggested. “You don’t know me. I could be as mean as those soldiers you tangled with.”

“And maybe I wouldn’t fight you.” She closed her eyes, knowing she wouldn’t. Just the sound of his voice had her pulse skyrocketing, her body heating up like a damned furnace. Dammit, if her vagina clenched any tighter she would strangle his cock when it finally got inside her. What the hell was wrong with her?

She could hear him breathing over the phone, deep and rough. She wondered if he heard her as well.

“Like what you saw the other day?” His shocking question was delivered in a hot, rough voice. Merinus took a deep breath, her tongue running over her dry lips nervously.

“You knew I was there?”

“Oh, I knew. I could feel your hot little eyes on me, Merinus. Do you think I jack off for the hell of it?

I’m a grown man, not a kid. I don’t get a hard-on with just any stiff breeze anymore.”

Merinus fought the little whimper that edged in her throat. She clenched her thighs together, fighting the ache there.

“Why?” she whispered. “Why did you do that?”

“Because you were watching. Because I know you want me and you don’t know what you’re asking for.”

“I saw—”

“Son of a bitch,” he growled. He actually growled the words. “Damn you, woman. This is insanity, you know that, don’t you?”

Oh, she knew. She knew it wasn’t the story she wanted anymore. It was just saving his life, revealing a major conspiracy, a crime against nature itself. It was more now, and she felt helpless in the grip of what it had become.

“I could return the favor.” Where the hell had those words come from? Merinus felt her face flush the minute they came from her mouth.

There was silence again. Long, thick with tension.

“You’re tempting me.” His voice sounded strangled.

“You know where I’m at,” she offered, amazed at the huskiness of her voice.

“Why are you doing this?” He sounded as ensnared by the heated offer as she had been at the sight he had given her.

“I’m not really sure.” She swallowed tightly, dragging her hand through her hair as she fought the overriding need pulsing in her body now. “Because I want to be with you. If nothing else, put you through the hell you put me through.”

Her breathing was rough, but so was his. She could hear the throb of desire in it, the same as it throbbed through her body.

“I’m too old for this,” he said, though his voice lacked conviction.

“Too old for sex?”

“For voyeurism. There’s no way in hell I’m actually going to touch you, woman, you’d burn me alive.”

Once again, there was no real heat in his voice.

“I want you to touch me.” She was confused by the intensity of her need. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m sitting here aching for you so desperately I’d agree to damned near anything. This isn’t normal for me, Callan.”

“So hunt up an old lover.”

“I’d have to have one first,” she snapped, offended by the desperation in his tone. “Forget it. I’m not going to beg.”

“But I might—” he bit out. “Tell me you’re not a fucking virgin.”

“No, I’m not a fucking virgin. Virgins have yet to fuck, remember?”

He cursed. Low, rough, a rumble amplified by the phone connection as heat seemed to sear her across the airwaves.

“I want inside you so bad my cock is about to burst,” he bit out. “You’re fucking dangerous.”

“So jack off again,” she snarled. “No, wait an hour first. I want to at least watch.”

The phone disconnected. Merinus threw it across the room as a squeal of feminine outrage erupted from her throat. Damn him. She ached. No she didn’t, she hurt. And all she could think about was that thick cock sliding into her, thrusting hard and deep, her vagina milking it, caressing it deeper and tighter than his hand had done days before.

Enough was enough. The game was over. She would be damned if she would lie here, virtually in heat, dying for some hick moron’s touch that didn’t want her. She would take him the message her father sent

her and get it over with. Lay the offer on the table then head for home. She didn’t need this, and she didn’t need him. Now, if she could just convince her body of that.


“Have you finished hiding from me?”

Callan knew he was in trouble when he saw her approach him moments before. Trouble was always recognizable. It had a scent, a feel, a low vibration of warning that thrummed through his veins. This feeling rioted through his system now. She stood beside him, watching him with a frown as he tinkered with the reluctant engine of his old truck once again and fought to get a handle on his self-control. The scent of her drifted on the breeze, the scent of fresh, clean woman, the beginning heat of arousal. Those scents lay around her now, tempting him, drawing him.

“Are you going to answer me?” she inquired, tilting her head, irritation flashing over her expression. Long strands of straight, thick brunette hair fell over her shoulder, caressing silken skin and tempting his hands. Dammit, he didn’t need this kind of trouble. Not after that phone call earlier, not after the hot surge of lust her offer had hit him with.

“I’m in plain sight. How’s that hiding?” He tested a line into the carburetor. “Now what the hell did you want with me? Didn’t those soldiers give you a nice little warning, Ms. Tyler? They play for keeps.”

She was intent on ignoring the danger of the situation evidently. She leaned her bare arms against the side of the truck, peering into the guts as though she knew what the hell she was doing.

“A friend sent me.” She shrugged. That movement caused the gentle curve of her breasts to rise a shade above the scooped neckline of the sleeveless top she wore.

Red. Dammit, it should be a crime for a woman that damned pretty to wear red. He glanced at her. Her brown eyes, clear and wide, studied the motor intently, rather than looking at him. The sweet spice of her need wrapped around him, making his cock harden demandingly. Big problem, Callan thought. Literally.

“So who sent you?” he questioned her with mild interest. “I don’t have a lot of friends.”

“Maybe not.” She glanced up at him, suspicion riding her expression. “But your mother had a few. My father sent me to extend his condolences and to see if you needed anything.”

He glanced at the woman again. Her gaze was knowing now. She had found him and she was more than aware of it. He laid the wrench down on the side of the truck and took a deep breath.

“You should return to your home, Ms. Tyler,” he told her quietly, warningly. “This is not the place for you or your father’s questions.”

Merinus looked around casually, careful to keep her voice low.

“Father can help you, Callan. That’s why I’m here.”

Frustration filled him now. The naivety of journalists often astounded him. They believed so deeply in their freedoms, the public’s right to know and their convictions of justice that they could not see the evil that shrouded them all. The innocence of this journalist fairly took his damned breath away.

“Come with me.” He rose to his full height, staring down at her as he took her slender arm in his hand and began pulling her along with him.

“Come where with you?” Suspicion laced her voice. There was no fear though, and he wanted to rail at her for her courage. The ignorance of her belief that she would come to no harm.

“Upstairs. To the office.” He pulled her through the garage to the back corner and up the steep stairs that led to Taber’s office.

The garage and attached store was owned by the Pride, as were all their holdings. But Taber was listed as sole owner on paper. It was better that way. Less suspicion. Less chance of being found. Callan jerked the door open and pushed her inside. Closing it carefully behind them, he turned the lock, reasonably confident of privacy now, considering the sound proof room they were standing in. He would have one chance to bluff his way through this, and one chance only. He was considering how to begin when she drew an envelope out of her purse and pulled out the damning evidence.

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