Bam! Bam! Bam!
What the fuck?
I jerked up, immediately reaching for my weapon, the only light in the room the slender strip of moonlight coming in through the partially closed blinds. As the haze of sleep started to drift away, I remembered I had a guest in my hotel suite, the insanely gorgeous woman an unexpected find.
While she murmured in her sleep, she hadn’t been awakened by the pounding on the door. After pulling the covers away, I eased to the floor, taking long strides into the living room portion of the suite.
“Diavolo.” The whisper was harsh, which meant there was an issue. My second in command knew better than to bother me at night unless there was a serious situation.
After unlocking, I took a step away, holding the weapon at chest level before opening the door. Paulo cursed under his breath in Spanish. The light from the corridor highlighted rage as well as concern.
I sensed her presence and tensed.
“Is there a problem?” Valentina’s lilting voice held a hint of fear. The single time I’d decided to indulge in sins of the flesh, and I was interrupted. It damn well better be for a decent reason or Paulo and I would have a serious discussion, one where he wouldn’t appreciate the outcome.
“I’m not certain,” I stated as I eyed my soldier. “What is it?”
“We need to get the fuck out of here,” Paulo hissed, darting his eyes around me into the darkened room.
“What the hell is going on, Paulo?” I demanded, backing away and allowing him inside.
Paulo quickly shut the door as I turned on a light. Then I noticed he was carrying his weapon openly, an indication of immense danger. In his hands were our clothes and her purse from the top floor. I’d been far too fucking careless. Fuck. Fuck!
He wasn’t surprised seeing Valentina, but obvious concern was all over his face. “You’ve been compromised. If you don’t get out of here quickly, you’ll be a dead man too.”
Too. That meant my father’s empire had taken a direct hit or that my own father had made me a target, making good on his last threat.
I took a deep breath, a single memory rushing into my mind, one that had haunted me for years. It wasn’t going to happen again.
“Leave her alone. Don’t you dare touch her,” I’d demanded, lifting my weapon.
“I will do what I want, when I want,” he said, laughing.
“Then you will die.”
The single sound Valentina made yanked me out of the horror show, my anger shifting directly into rage. She shuddered audibly, reflecting her level of uneasiness. She had no idea she’d spent the night with a monster.
“What’s the situation?” I backed away further, moving toward the open blinds, shutting them immediately. Even though we were on the top floor, the hotel’s location allowed for sniper activity easily.
“Your father and brother were slaughtered, your mother critically injured. You’ve been discovered, seen with the woman. The fucking photos are all over the internet, rumors you’re a couple surfacing on every major social platform.”
A powerful moment of realization followed his proclamation. In those long sixty full seconds the life I’d fought to build, removing the filth of my family from under my nails vanished. The ugly reality was that I was next in line for the serpent’s throne, forced to endure leading a regime that would ultimately drain my blood.
“Goddamn it.” I raked my hand through my hair, trying to process what to do with Valentina. This was a no-win situation.
“There are at least two teams of enemy soldiers preparing to surround the building. An extraction team is on the way, but we must leave now.” Paulo didn’t mince words, but his hard, cold stare indicated the level of danger.
“Rojas?” How in the hell did an extraction team get here so quickly? While my father had people working for him all over the world, including ex-military men who’d vowed their loyalty, the fact they were on the way was farfetched if not impossible. There was no time to ask questions. However, a nagging remained in my gut.
“Yeah, a full-scale attack. If you’re killed, then he takes full control. You can’t assume all your father’s men will remain loyal.”
“Fuck.” I’d wanted no part of my father’s life just like he’d wanted no part of mine. Now there was no other choice but to take over as the leader. As far as loyalty, I suspected my father had poisoned every soldier under his regime against me. My only hope to keep Rojas from taking control was pulling them together. Fat chance. Fuck. “Do you have an exit route?”
He tossed another look in Valentina’s direction. “Through the kitchen, but we must hurry, sir.” My second had been well trained, assessing risk factors while memorizing the floor layout. I’d anticipated something like this could happen, but not to this degree. My father’s estate was like Fort Knox.
“Bernardino and Alejandra?” My younger siblings, mere kids who didn’t deserve the wrath of God no matter the brutality my father had inflicted over the years.
Paulo remained antsy. “Safe. For now. We need to get the fuck out of here.”
I didn’t have time to mourn over the loss of family members, not that there was any love lost with my father or brother, Arturo. However, my mother was innocent, the kindest person on the face of this earth. The motherfucker would pay for injuring her.
I moved toward Valentina quickly, the sight of her standing with a sheet wrapped around her voluptuous body forcing my cock to twitch. Our entanglement was supposed to be for a night, maybe two.
Now her entire life was about to change.
So was mine.
“Get dressed, Valentina. You’re coming with me.”
“Whoa,” she said, obviously flustered. “What the hell are you talking about? I’m not going anywhere.”
I closed the distance, trying to find the right words without terrifying her more than necessary. “You have no choice. If what my lieutenant says is true, we have five minutes to leave the hotel to ensure our safety.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t time to explain.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” She pulled away, giving me a nasty glare.
I wrapped my hand around her arm, jerking her against my chest and onto her toes. As I lowered my head, I tried to keep my voice as soothing as possible. “Do you want to die?”
Shuddering, her mouth twisted as she blinked several times. “No.”
“Then you’re coming with me.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Diavolo Montoya, the new drug lord of the Montoya Cartel.”
Twelve hours earlier
The city of love.
The gorgeous location was the perfect atmosphere for a romance novel, only I’d yet to use it in a single book I’d written. I glanced out the floor-to-ceiling windows toward the picturesque Eiffel Tower, longing to find my perfect alpha hero. I envisioned strolling hand in hand, grabbing a glass of wine or a cup of coffee before dashing off to our hotel room, spending hours embroiled in passion.
My nipples hardened at the thought of indulging in my darkest fantasies, every one of them detailed between the pages of one of my books. Find the perfect lover was never going to happen. I was convinced of it.
Sighing, I tried to keep smiling, the crowd yet to thin out. The Dark and Dangerous convention was a raging success, hundreds of people flocking to my table for signed books and swag. However, the day had proven to be arduous and long. I craved a tall glass of merlot and a soaking bath. There was still one more day to go.
“Smile, girl. You’re a hit. I knew you’d be,” Shelly, my amazing assistant whispered, her words always encouraging. Well, mostly. She also enjoyed providing digs about my lackluster love life and need for solitude.
I drifted into marketing mode as another fan approached the table, the older woman giggling as soon as she stood a mere two feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice she was carrying at least eight of my books in her arms. The little thrills always made me smile the most.
“You are my favorite author of all time,” the girl said in flawless English, her French accent subdued. “I have every one of your books. But none of them are signed. Could I ask…” Her face flushed from embarrassment. “Maybe I’m being too forward.”
“Nonsense. I would absolutely love to sign every book you have. Plus, I brought my latest novel, which hasn’t been released yet.” I truly adored meeting fans, but I’d never believed I deserved the accolades. At least her happy squeal managed to give me a smile. I tugged a copy of my latest novel, Fire and Ice, from under the table, my assistant sliding another pen in my direction. Shelly knew how I was with pens, always losing them even in a confined environment.
She blushed as she placed several well-worn copies on the table. “I have a special place on my bookshelf for Fire and Ice. Oh, my God. The model. He is sooo lickable. Thank you so much, Ms. Jennings.”
“Please, call me Valentina.” The model was lickable. I could think of a few other naughty girl things I’d like to do to him as well. Tall, dark, and dangerous. Perfect for several of my covers.
As I started signing, I managed to hear Shelly inhaling deeply, the sound strangled.
“Oh, dear God in heaven. Would you look at the hunk who just walked in the door?” Shelly whispered the question, immediately fanning her face with her hand as a single moan slipped past her lips.
I narrowed my eyes, tossing a quick glance toward the door. How the hell could she see anything past the huge crowd of people?
After returning my attention to my task at hand, the lovely fan jabbering on about which hero she could see herself in bed with, I felt Shelly’s fingers wrapping around my arm, tugging only seconds later.
“Oh. My. God. It’s him.”
I could swear the girl who never became flustered over the hundreds of tasks I assigned her to do in a short amount of time was ready to hyperventilate.
“Who are you talking about?” I finally asked, trying to keep from laughing.
Her face was white, her mouth open in a perfect O, the kind I described after one of my heroines was tossed into an electrifying moment of utter bliss. Then I followed her gaze, forced to take a deep breath.
I hadn’t been prepared for the sight of him, my pulse skipping several beats. Tall, dark, and dangerous didn’t do the man justice. Lust immediately coiled in my stomach, a reaction that never happened. The wild thumping of my heart accompanied the slight tic that had appeared out of the blue in the corner of my mouth. As I slowly lifted my head, staring at the large horizontal banner I’d brought with me, my number one fan clapped her hands, obviously squealing from the sight of the man in the flesh.
“He is so freaking dreamy. What I wouldn’t give to ride him long and hard,” Shelly mused.
“Oh, God. Oh. Yes. I need to get a picture of the two of you together. Let me see if I can get him to come closer.” My fan was also close to hyperventilating, immediately grabbing her camera, taking picture after picture.
I started to say no, but what could it hurt meeting the man?
Shelly’s thoughts mirrored mine, the course of powerful heat rushing through me a bizarre reaction. But it wasn’t the only one. I was wet, my pussy already dampening my panties. This was ridiculous. I was a prosecutor, for God’s sake. Well, I used to be before I gave it up for the glorious, lonely life of being a romance author. Still, I’d been lucky, or unlucky enough depending on the man in question, to be around plenty of hunks in my career. Sadly, most of them had turned out to be arrogant pricks who didn’t deserve a second glance.
But this rugged, picture-perfect specimen was like a sculpted god sent from the heavens above. I was unable to concentrate on anything but watching as he milled through the crowd in my direction, women flocking to him like flies to honey. He was the epitome of gorgeous, his olive skin and chiseled muscles a precise complement to his shaggy dark hair and the stunning ink crawling up both arms. There was nothing sexier than a tattooed man in my mind, another element most of my heroes were famous for.
However, I’d learned a rock-solid lesson the moment my ex had snapped the thin tether he’d thought he’d kept around my heart.
Men were programmed to get what they wanted no matter the circumstances. Those with insanely good looks believed they could have any woman they wanted by crooking their index finger. Men with that kind of power could corrupt even the most fastidious woman. I refused to fall into that category. The last reminder years before had finalized my thoughts, locking away what limited desires had remained lurking at the surface.
“My God,” Shelly repeated.
“Are you kidding me? This is a fantasy in the making.”
Even the way the man was dressed was captivating, his swagger matching the tight black tee shirt and leather vest. I could almost imagine him with a weapon hidden carefully in the pocket, prepared and ready to take aim at anyone daring to fuck with him. Dark. Dangerous.
Yes, he was sex on a stick, the perfect muse for my Mafioso men. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought. I could see him wielding a powerful weapon, performing like a badass as he saved whatever damsel was in distress, preferably me.
Stop. Just stop.
Swallowing, I finally laughed at myself for acting like some lovestruck schoolgirl. No. He wasn’t going to dissolve my good mood, no matter how much he pretended to care. “What’s your name?” I asked my fan, refusing to give the model another glance. I should have guessed my books would play second fiddle.
She completely ignored me, lost in the spell he’d cast over nearly every other woman in the room, my assistant included. Shelly immediately started putting the three books on which he graced the cover in front of the others, her breathing ragged.
The squealing in the room escalated enough I took a deep breath, putting my pen on the table. Diavolo Montoya. Even his name was perfect for a dominant alpha male. A wide smile crossed his face as his adorning fans swarmed around him, yet there was a darkness in his obsidian eyes, more than a hint of danger that intrigued me as much as his devilishly good looks. The man following him, scanning the room like a hawk, wasn’t bad either. Just as buff and beautiful.
“Look. Look!” Shelly exclaimed. “He’s a cover model, a DJ, an actor, and a boxer. He has several degrees as well. Can you believe that?” She shoved her iPhone in front of me. “Just look.”
As soon as I dropped my gaze, she flipped from screen to screen on Instagram, highlighting the various pictures I’d already seen before. I chose my models carefully, or so I liked to think. The truth was, in my mind he was the best-looking hunk I’d ever seen.
“I know. Trust me, girl, I know.” What I knew was that he thought himself a god, which didn’t bode well for me. I continued to smile, amused how everyone was fawning over him. As I signed the various books, I could only hope my biggest fan would return for them at some point.
“You need that man.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do I need to spell it out for you? As in a humba-humba beneath the sheets.”
I wanted to punch her in the throat, her voice loud enough at least three people shot us a look. I could only pray they only spoke French. “What the hell is that expression?”
She shrugged, her expression smug. “Just sayin’.” She’d become a friend over the last year and a half, also listening to my tales of woe about men.
I wasn’t a one-night stand kind of girl.
Maybe you should be.
Great. Now my picky inner voice was nagging at me too.
A few seconds passed, maybe a full minute. Then Shelly popped my arm hard enough I yelped.
“What was that for?”
“He’s. Coming. This. Way. Now’s your chance. Whew. That man is on fire.”
“Remind me to have a chat with you about your inside voice,” I hissed.
“Not going to happen. You love me just the way I am. He’s the definite jam between my buttered bread.”
“Don’t have a heart attack on me.” I rolled my eyes, counting to five before glancing toward the aisle. Shit. She was right. The hunk was taking long strides in my direction, ignoring everyone else who attempted to garner his attention. It was difficult not to admire his masculinity, broad shoulders and sculpted chest leading to a narrow waist and long legs. As he neared, I concentrated on his long eyelashes and the thick cords in his neck.
His stare was penetrating, the horrific lighting in the room allowing me to see his eyes were a deep rich brown, the color of molten chocolate, his thick black lashes insanely long. His expression bore the same hard, stern look he presented to photographers, but this time his intense gaze was very personal.
He didn’t blink, his footsteps slowing, but his stare was insanely intense, raking aside layer after layer I’d used for emotional protection, peering straight into my soul.
Oh, how scorched my skin had become.
Look away. Just look away.
I managed to do so briefly, just long enough to yank back whatever rational side of my mind was left.
A dull echo formed in my ears from the intensity of my heartbeat, the moment moving in slow motion creating a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I stood, smoothing down my dress, trying to act as if I was approached by gorgeous men on a regular basis. I was still unable to breathe normally. Thankfully, my attention was drawn away by the stoic man in the dark suit and white shirt following close behind him. Who was he, Diavolo’s bodyguard? Well, that would make sense given the various female reactions. I’d already witnessed one woman jumping into the arms of another cover model prior to the morning sessions.
When Mr. Cover Model was within four feet he stopped, lifting his head and staring directly at the banner. He was larger than life, the banner unable to do him justice. I hadn’t envisioned him as being so tall, but he was at least six foot five of lean, mean, killing machine muscles. I shifted my gaze to the colorful art on his arms, unable to decipher the characters, but the dark ink illustrated his dangerous persona.
Even the man in the suit seemed amused as he stared at the hulking likeness.
Diavolo took another step forward, allowing the same gaze to slide from my face to the table, his nostrils flaring.
Shelly was suddenly deathly quiet, except for her heavy breathing.
“Me gustaria que me acompanes a tomar una copa mas tarde.”
While I’d heard him speak in his Instagram posts, the deep baritone was entirely different in person. It was velvety smooth and rich, and my skin tingled from the inflections, the way his voluptuous lips formed around the words.
Even if I had no real clue what he’d said to me.
I’d taken conversational Spanish in high school, preferring French as my second language. Now I regretted it. I’d caught only a few words. Like. Me. You. That sounded promising. Another reason to ignore him. When I tried, turning away, I felt his fingers brushing against my arm. I almost lost my battle not to make a single sound of appreciation. I turned my head, glaring into his eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. French?” I moved from around the table, still trying to act as if his presence didn’t bother me.
Diavolo narrowed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “I asked if you would be available to have a drink with me later, or dinner perhaps.”
With his heavy Spanish accent, every word out of his mouth dripped of sensuality.
I thought about the request and wasn’t certain it was the thing to do. Shelly kicked me under the table, darting a pointed look at me. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Another smile crossed his face, one screaming of absolute seduction, his gorgeous dark eyes flashing as he thought about how to respond.
“Yo insisto.” I could swear he issued a slight possessive growl after speaking.
His two words were easy to decipher. I insist. What an entitled jerk.
The raw arrogance he displayed irritated the hell out of me. As much as I wanted to spend time enjoying myself, I refused to do so with someone who insisted. That just pissed me off.
“As I said. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” In fact. Go find another tart to play with.
While I didn’t say the words, I was certain my terse expression reflected my dissatisfaction.
I’ll be damned if he didn’t crowd my space a second time, the heated moment melting my resolve.
“Mi belleza. Vos a tomar una copa conmigo.” He leaned over, whispering the translation in my ear, his inflection completely dominating. “You will have one drink with me.” After pressing his lips against my neck, he backed away, his dark eyes twinkling.
God, he was so certain of himself. There was something about his persona, his hard push that troubled me and it had nothing to do with his self-assuredness. The aura surrounding him reeked of power, more than his position would provide. What infuriated me even more was that I remained intrigued by his hard-core press, my entire body aching from his tender touch.
What’s wrong with you? my inner voice chided. The honest truth was that I hadn’t had sex in well over two years. I’d gotten over the ache of being terminated like a bad haircut, but the stain left on my heart had prevented me from letting go even for a dinner date.
“As I said. I insist,” he repeated. His statement was so matter of fact I laughed. Sadly, the wash of scorching heat spreading across my cheeks was a dead giveaway that he’d already weaseled his way past my first line of defense.
Damn him for being so attractive, igniting a fire I’d long since thought as extinct as the dinosaurs.
I folded my arms, studying Diavolo and for a few seconds, it was as if no one else was in the room. In truth, I was trying to hide the fact my nipples were fully aroused, pushing against the thin lace bra and the bodice of my dress. His eyes were captivating, pulling me into a filthy yet delicious darkness. However, they were also cold, filled with danger and I couldn’t sense the man had a soul. Whew. I’d been spending far too much of my time writing about bad boys. If he was insistent on speaking in Spanish, I’d cobble together a few words in my reply.
“Acepto pero solo en la fiesta.”
I accept but only at the party.
A structured event for the conference. Safe. Secure. Inside the building. I could handle that.
If Diavolo was perturbed, I couldn’t tell it. After a few seconds, he tipped his head, giving me a single nod. “Then I will find you at this fabulous party, but I assure you that I will convince you to have a private dinner with me.”
The connotations were subtle yet direct enough my heart fluttered.
He reminded me slightly of my ex, which wasn’t a good thing, especially at this moment. I refused to give him a reply even though we were locked together in a battle of sexual wills. I was hot and wet all over, and there was no doubt by the thick bulge between his legs that he was also excited.
“Tonight,” I stated with no real inflection in my voice. I wasn’t a pushover. He’d learn that right away.
“Until tonight, mi bella Valentina.”
Beautiful. He had all the right moves and words, which obviously allowed him to seduce any woman he set his sights on.
“Picture. Can I get a picture of the two of you?” another woman asked, her camera already in position, at least two dozen others flanking her side.
Diavolo wrapped his arm around my waist, dragging me close, the electricity pulsing between us white-hot and immediate. As his fingers dug into my side, I tried to smile, my pulse racing.
“Smile, mi bella. You are the most incredible woman in the room. Any man would be lucky to have you captured in eternity.”
Jesus. He was suave, natural in front of the cameras. He was used to the limelight while I was still trying to get used to it. As various phones started capturing the moment, we both managed to look insanely happy, several other women approaching. Then the event photographer shifted in front, taking frame after frame.
I wasn’t prepared when Diavolo shifted our bodies, pulling me against his chest. As he cupped my chin, his thumb pressing into my cheek, I lost all ability to think clearly. Then he was daring enough to slowly lower his head, crushing his lips against mine.
I managed to hear several squeals of delight, moans indicating every woman hungered to be in my place before losing focus and hearing completely. I pressed my hand against his chest, slowly wrapping my fingers around his shirt, arching my back as the kiss became a passionate roar. He swept his tongue inside, dominating mine, the taste of him sinful and delicious. There was no understanding of time, the moment of raw intimacy powerful. The connection was overwhelming, my mind spinning as filthy thoughts sent vibrations all the way to my toes.
He broke the kiss, nipping my lower lip, then slowly sliding his lips to my ear. His whispered words were ones I’d never forget, even though the bitchy side of me roared to the surface.
“No puedo esperar para saborearte.”
While I had no idea what he’d said, there was no doubt it was naughty, a true sin.
He took a deep whiff then rolled his index finger over his lips as if he’d captured my scent for the eternity he’d mentioned. Then he walked away.
After a few seconds I let out a ragged exhale. Yes, the man was gorgeous, but I didn’t need to spend a night with an arrogant prick. That’s not why I’d come to Paris.
“What a jerk,” I whispered, huffing as I glared at him.
“Are you mad?” Shelly asked, about to launch into me for my stupidity. That much I knew about her. “What did he whisper?”
I tried to remember, repeating the Spanish words slowly.
“Oh, sweet Jesus. He said, ‘I can’t wait to taste you.’”
Sweet Jesus was right. But that wasn’t going to happen. I allowed my gaze to follow him, curious if he would repeat his actions with another author. He passed by every table, barely glancing in the author’s direction. Maybe he was the real deal.
“There’s something about him that’s dark and dangerous,” I mused.
“Well, duh. My God, woman. Don’t you think maybe your standards have gotten just a tad high?”
“Like I said. According to you, you’re too good for every man out there. You’re going to die old and lonely.”
I slowly turned my head, frowning. “Very funny and extremely infuriating.”
“But it’s the truth and you know it. You have a godlike creature approach you and you push him aside like he’s a common man. You need to step away from your books every once in a while. Enjoy life. You’re in Paris after all. Do you know how many women would give their right arm to be in your shoes? God knows I would. Maybe I’ll go after his bodyguard.”
Her statements were true enough. I’d been nursing a broken heart for almost two years. In a sense, I’d let the bastard who’d crushed my muscle in a tight vise win whatever game he’d played with me. At least I’d turned my full attention to writing, able to make more than just a decent living. Meanwhile, buzzard boy had gone off to marry the socialite of the year, her parents filthy rich. Why had I allowed Mark to crowd into my mind now? Why?
Because he’d promised me that he’d take me to Paris one day.
What a crock of shit.
Even though Diavolo was already fifty yards away, he stopped long enough to turn around, giving me the full court press with his wolfen look.
“I’m going to have a drink with him. Okay? One drink. Happy now?” I tossed out.
“Don’t let me twist your arm.”
“You are one bad woman.”
“No, I’m the only one who’s allowed to push you. Have a fling. Trust me, it’ll do you some good. Especially your surly personality.”
Shelly moved out of the way before I could punch her in the arm.
As I caught the last glimpse of him before he was consumed by the crowd once again, a strange nagging sensation rolled through me. He was mysterious and I had a distinct feeling he was hiding something. I’d been a prosecutor for far too long. Maybe that had rubbed off on me. Live a little, huh? Maybe I would for a change.
But a filthy, delicious tryst? That wasn’t me. That couldn’t happen. Not in this lifetime.
Even if we would never see each other again.