Enter Sydney Carpenter, a bad-ass, no-nonsense, wait-right-there-so-I-can-
But this is anything but a routine mission. Love, lust, and deadly secrets have the power to destroy even the best-laid plans. For the three of them to survive, they’ll not only have to accept their unspoken need for each other, they’ll have to put it all on the line to save the mission—and their souls. And when Sydney finally reveals a terrifying secret, they’ll have to face the reality that nothing in their world is as it seems.
WARNING: Contains two hardcore Marine soldiers guaranteed to make your panties melt.
A soft, sensuous groan pulled Sam from a dark, restless sleep.
He lay on his back, naked but for a pair of boxer shorts, tucked under a pile of all-too-familiar hotel-style blankets. Disorientation confounded his sleep-muddled brain as he tried to remember why he’d been sleeping in the middle of the day—his inner clock said it was just coming up mid-afternoon, and his inner clock was never wrong. A quick glance showed him a room darkened by blackout curtains, but very little else. Befuddled, still not quite awake yet, he tried to remember what led up to his impromptu nap.
Oh. Right. Sydney had gone to retrieve burgers and fries, so they could recoup some calories, then insisted they should all take a mid-afternoon snooze to make sure they had enough energy to face the busy night she had planned. An hour of chivvying hadn’t produced any more information, so Sam had admitted defeat and took her suggestion to heart. Syd and Dex had snuggled down together on one of the beds, leaving Sam to huddle alone in his own pile of blankets. He’d stripped down this time—a night spent constricted by a tight pair of jeans hadn’t exactly helped his mood today—and settled in, expecting to lay awake while the other two slept.
Apparently, Syd had been right. He’d needed the rest, and his brain promptly took a stage-left exit. So, what woke him up?
There it was again. A small, muffled groan, followed by a swish of fabric against fabric. Sam frowned, staring at the ceiling. Coming from outside, maybe? But, no, the sounds were too close, too immediate. He listened harder. A rhythmic shifting. A rumbly sort of mumble. Another rustle, followed by a creaking noise, then what sounded like a sharp intake of breath….
The realization slammed over him, and Sam’s whole body tightened like an over-coiled spring. Sydney and Dexter had gone to sleep on the bed next to Sam’s, but they weren’t asleep any longer. The soft cries, themuffled groans, and the sound of over-starched sheets sliding against one another all pointed to one thing.
Sex. They were having sex. Right there, on the bed next to his.
Sam clamped his teeth against a needy groan. Obviously, they thought he was still safely asleep. No wonder, given how hard he’d been napping just moments ago. Still, it surprised him he’d slept through even this much of it; he normally woke up if so much as a cricket chirped outside his room.
He was awake now, though. And so was his libido.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut. He would not look. Couldn’t. They deserved their privacy. He should have made an effort to get a second room just so they could have as much space as possible. But in his rush to confront Syd, and then to hash out a plan to deal with the unexpected discovery of the darkling-maker, he hadn’t thought that far ahead.
And now he was stuck here, listening to the two of them enjoying each other while having to pretend he wasn’t affected.
Too late. His cock was a throbbing steel bar resting against his belly. Hormones and need ping-ponged through his system like hummingbirds high on Red Bull. He bit his tongue, then his cheeks, then fisted the sheets on either side of himself. He would not look. He could not look. No way was he going to—
Sydney’s breathless, sensual exclamation sent lightning sizzling through his body. It took everything he had not to convulse with the force of it. His eyes popped open, and before he could stop himself, he looked to his right.
And had to stifle back a healthy groan.
Just enough light seeped around the blackout curtains for him to see their silhouettes. Dex lay on top of Sydney, chest to chest, his elbows braced on either side of her head while his face was buried in her hair. She had her arms wrapped around his torso, fingers clutching his shoulder blades, as she pressed her forehead against the crook of his neck. A single, thin sheet covered their lower bodies, outlining Sydney’s bent, splayed knees and Dex’s tight, hard ass. The bed rocked softly as Dex moved his hips in a slow, gentle ride.
As Sam watched, Dex picked up the pace, lifting himself up just enough to give himself room to maneuver. Sydney wrapped a hand around the back of his neck, holding tight, and bit Dex’s bicep as if to keep from crying out. Dex’s soft grunts, Sydney’s suppressed cries, and the soft rustle of the sheet all blended together to form a sensual symphony that set every part of Sam’s body on fire.
He couldn’t look away. Didn’t even dare, lest they realize he’d woken and think he’d been spying on them since the beginning. Oh, God, he didn’t want to witness this, and yet he drank in every detail, every moan, every soft sigh. They were beautiful together. Sexual dynamite. So perfect and erotic, it made Sam’s heart ache from the sight of it. Oh, fuck, how he wanted to reach out and touch them, both of them, feel their silky-soft skin, their tensing muscles, their glorious heat…
Jesus. What the hell am I thinking? Both of them? He never let himself think like that. Not anymore. Dex had never shown any interest in guys. The guy wasn’t homophobic, or completely averse to the idea, but he wasn’t exactly a cheerleader, either. Dex just never seemed to pay attention to his own gender, at least not in that way. And Sam had never told anyone, save his high school crush, a guy named Enzio, that he swung both ways. Aside from a drunken night in Chicago, when Sam had confessed his deepest, darkest desire to an equally drunk Sydney, Sam hadn’t even thought about his personal proclivities in that direction in quite some time.
Right now, though…
Sam suppressed a shudder. The way their bodies moved together looked so tantalizing. So tempting. He could see himself rising from the bed, padding over to them, and running his palm down Dex’s strong, hard back. An equally sexy caress for Sydney’s thigh would be followed by wrapping his hand around Dex’s throat, turning his head, and…
Fuck. There wasn’t enough air in the room. Had somebody shut off the vents? It should have been cold, but it was hot, and sticky, and so goddamn erotic…
Sam sat straight up, heedless of the consequences, and bolted for the bathroom. He heard Dex’s curse and Sydney’s murmur of surprise just before slamming the door shut. Groaning, he sat on the toilet lid, put his head in his hands, and wished himself invisible.
Too late now. Way, way too late.
“Close the door,” Sydney told him. The gun’s muzzle never wavered.
“No, I’ll go,” Sam said quickly. “I didn’t mean to interrupt…”
“Come in and close the damn door, Sam Spencer. You can’t leave.”
Sam and Dex both shot her incredulous expressions. “He can’t?” Dex said at the same time Sam barked, “I can’t?”
Sydney, still pointing the gun at him, calmly lifted herself off of Dex—oh, fuck, he wished he could see through that damn pile of blankets—and slid off the end of the bed. Stark naked, beautiful as all get-out, she sauntered over to a puddle of white fabric in the middle of the floor. With a last searching look toward Sam, she finally lowered the gun, set it on a chest of drawers, and picked up the robe. She threw it around her shoulders, flipped the tie closed with a casual twist of her wrists, and stood facing him with arms crossed beneath her breasts.
“Since I know you’re not as stupid as that one over there,” she poked a thumb toward Dex, who scowled at her, “I’m assuming you didn’t walk here.”
“Didn’t walk,” Dex grumbled. “Double-timed it.”
Syd rolled her eyes. “Note how he doesn’t bother to refute the stupid part. Just the walking part.”
Sam had to bite the corners of his lips to keep from grinning as Dex muttered curses.
“Which means you drove back,” Syd continued. “And that means you were seen by the Big Man’s watchers. If you leave now, they’ll kill you before you leave the parking lot.”
Her expression hardened. “Because there are only two reasons why a man, alone, would come to this motel in the dead of night. Either he’s a john who got invited back for a second helping, or he’s a cop looking for insider information.” One eyebrow quirked. “Which one do you think they’ll assume you are?”
Sam fidgeted. Damn it, a little slip of a woman shouldn’t be able to make a man his size fidget. “I was careful. I didn’t park in front of your room. You left the door unlocked, by the way. I assumed that meant you were expecting me…or…something.”
“We weren’t, so get the fuck out,” Dex growled. He still sat in the middle of the bed, blankets wrapped around his lower body. His glare said he hated Sam for interrupting what was clearly the best night of his life.
“He can’t leave,” Syd said again. “Doesn’t matter how careful he was. I can guarantee someone saw him.” She took in a slow breath. “Doesn’t mean we can’t fix it. Which room did you park in front of?”
“Uh…” Sam scratched his temple. “Room two, I think. Right next door to the office.”
Sydney pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “Well, I suppose there’s a small blessing in that. At least you didn’t wake up Madge. She would have sicced Merle on you.”
“Madge? Who’s Madge? And why would she sic her dog on us?”
“Madge is the owner of this fine establishment,” Sydney replied with a twisted little smile. “Works directly for the Big Man. She sleeps in the front office, but only a fool—or a stranger—would dare to go in there at this time of night. Locals know better than to wake her up just to get a room in this dump. And Merle isn’t her dog, it’s her shotgun.”
“Her shotgun?” Sam’s eyebrows touched his hairline.
“She named it?” Dex’s voice had risen an octave.
Syd gave a little shrug. “She says the twelve-gauge is woman’s best friend, so…yeah. She even bought a dog collar for it. It’s real pretty, actually. Princess-pink with a rhinestone buckle.”
“She bought a pink dog collar…for a shotgun.” The look on Dex’s face was priceless.
“With rhinestones,” Sydney confirmed with a nod.
“But…it’s pink,” Dex said, sounding awed and horrified at the same time.
“And it’s sparkly.”
“I thought Merle was a boy’s name,” Sam said with a frown.
“And she says he likes pink, okay?” Sydney snapped, voice going all high and indignant as she glared at them. “Don’t judge!”
Both men gaped at her, mouths hanging open—then burst out laughing. Sydney held her outraged expression a moment longer, then shook her head as a big grin lit her features. “Finally. Geez, guys. I was afraid I’d strain a muscle trying to keep a straight face. Better now? Are we all lightened up? Good, because you two need to relax a bit.”
Rhiannon Ayers has lived in many cities over the years, having grown up the daughter of parents who suffered from wanderlust. Currently, she and her husband reside near the Gulf of Mexico with their children, both the two- and four-legged variety. An artist to the bone, Rhiannon spends her days dreaming up snappy headlines and creating eye-catching artwork for clients all over the world, though telling stories has always been her first love. After writing her first epic adventure series at the tender age of eight, she went on to garner several creative writing awards, including the prestigious Vanderbilt Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Becoming a published author is her single greatest achievement to date.