Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.
All rights reserved.
Darci Whitlam stared at the handset of her phone as if it had grown a set of arms and was trying to feel her up. Well, not feel her up as such, but grab her nipples through her t-shirt and bra and twist them until she cried uncle. What the hell had she just heard?
Her frown pulling hard at her eyebrows, she returned the handset to her ear and said, “Excuse me?”
“I’m going to gag you, bend you over the sofa and pump your sweet, tight pussy full of my hot—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she cut the man on the other end of the line off. “That’s what I thought you said.”
Face igniting in red heat, she clunked the handset of her phone back in its cradle and chewed on her bottom lip. Damn, that was the third dirty phone call she’d had this morning. Each from a different man, each describing in great detail what the caller wanted to do to her. What the hell was going on?
Turning back to the phone, she picked up the handset again and stared at it.
It’s not going to give you the answer, Darci.
That was true, but she had to do something. For starters, find out why three men thought she, Darci-Rae Whitlam, an unassuming high-school English teacher in a small city on the East Coast of Australia, was, in fact, a telephone sex worker. How the hell did they get her private number? Not even the smartest student at school had unearthed that number, and Terry Cahill had been trying since year nine.
Shouldn’t you be more worried about how explicit and threatening that last caller was?
She pulled a face, dropping the handset back into the cradle once more and blowing at her eyelash-brushing fringe. Probably yes, but two things kept the worry at bay.
A) She was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and could, if needed, kick some serious arse.
And B) The explicit nature of the phone calls made her, well…a little…excited. And…horny.
Okay, that’s it. You’re officially insane. This is why Vivian calls you oversexed. You get a slightly disturbing phone call from a complete stranger, and instead of being scared you get hot to trot.
Darci blew into her fringe again, a frustrated exhalation that did nothing except contribute to the unruly mess of curls falling over her forehead. Damn it, she shouldn’t have thought of her older sister. Whenever she thought of Viv, she got antsy. Viv was the achiever in the family—the famous literary novelist who followed in their father’s famous shoes. Viv had the doting doctor husband, the two med-school-grad children, the well-trained, pedigreed King Cavalier Spaniel and the three-story mansion overlooking Sydney Harbor.
Darci, as Viv often pointed out, was a forty-year-old, unmarried high-school teacher who still went out to bars on the weekend, wrestled on the beach with Jay Jay Jones (her totally untrained mutt), ate carbohydrates until they came out her ears, drank beer straight from the bottle and often forgot where she’d left her one tube of lipstick.
Darci also, much to Viv’s dismay and shame, had no qualms about her relationship with Mr. Tibbs, her rabbit (the vibrating variety, not the furry kind), and still enjoyed flirting when given the chance—especially with sexy young men.
Which is why she calls you oversexed. God, if she knew you were getting excited over an obvious case of mistaken identity, she’d throw a pink fit.
With one more huff into her fringe, Darci walked away from the phone. She probably should do something about the calls, but not now. Now she wanted to connect with someone who didn’t care if she flirted with strange—but always handsome—men in bars.
Dropping into the worn, comfortable leather recliner tucked under a low reading lamp in the far corner of her living room, Darci woke her laptop and opened iChat. If she was lucky, Rachel would be online. The American knew how to make her laugh and didn’t care one iota if she owned a rabbit. In fact, Darci was pretty damn certain the physical therapist owned one herself.
Rachel, however, wasn’t online. Her little Bugs Bunny avatar was just a ghosty-gray image in the Buddies list, which probably meant Rach was still in bed. It was after all, the previous night over in the States.
Darci grimaced. “Bum.”
She dragged her hands through her hair, which disturbed the curls even more than her earlier melodramatic hyperventilating. She should close her laptop and get to marking assignments. She had a pile the size of Ayres Rock waiting for her, itching at her subconscious, but she just wasn’t in the mood. For starters, the three phone calls this morning were still affecting her and she just felt…unsettled.
Don’t you mean horny?
Rolling her eyes at her own ridiculousness—oh yeah, that’s an elegant word for an English teacher should use, Darc—she shut down iChat and opened her email instead. She’d check her inbox, answer what needed to be answered and then give Jay Jay a bath. The pair of them had spent yesterday afternoon surfing and the dog still smelled like a seaweed farm.
“Ah,” she murmured, spying Rachel’s name in the From column. “Talk about freaky.” Wriggling her butt deeper into the recliner, Darci toed off her thongs and opened Rachel’s email, the mysterious subject header—Go here now!—making her grin.
The email opened and Darci’s eyebrows lifted. Unlike Rachel’s normal emails, which provided lovingly detailed descriptions of what Rach had been up to, what book she was currently reading as well as what hero she was currently in lust with, all info Darci loved to read, this email contained just two things.
A web address.
And the words, You’re invited to become a Cougar, Darci. Join us.
Darci frowned. “What the hell?”
Moving her finger over the laptop’s trackpad, she clicked on the link.
And double blinked when a website unlike any she’d been to opened.
“Bloody hell, Rach,” she muttered, her gaze flicking over the various images of very hunky, very naked men filling her screen. “Where have you sent me?”
She studied the men before her, her pulse quickening. There was text to go with the images, but for the moment it may as well have been ancient Mandarin for all it meant to Darci. What held her attention were the men.
The young men.
She shook her head, unable to drag her stare from her screen. “Oh my…” Sculpted muscles Michelangelo would have been proud to create defined bodies devoid of any middle-age spread. Artfully messy hair tumbled over foreheads free of wrinkles, not a gray strand to be seen in the thick, glossy locks. Clear, direct eyes gazed out at her—blue, black, green, hazel. Eyes smoldering with open desire and seduction.
Darci sucked in a sharp breath. “Twenties. Can’t be any older than mid-to late-twenties.”
And so yummy your knickers are growing damper by the second.
The unexpected thought took her by surprise and she sucked in another breath, this one a little less sharp and a little more…ragged. Pulling at her bottom lip with her teeth, Darci read the blog’s header—Tempt the Cougrrr—and then the first post. She half-frowned, half-grinned at a section of the first paragraph.
“…women who dare to take the challenge and experience the delights of sex with a younger man. Women who cast off their cloaks of conventionality and indulge their inner wild woman.
“Stay tuned for updates!”
“Oh, Rachel Bridges,” she chuckled, returning her attention to the gorgeous men clearly a decade younger than her. “You naughty bloody girl.”
The last time she and Rachel spoke, Darci had mentioned—in passing—how cute the fresh-out-of-university Phys. Ed. teacher just appointed to her school was. Rachel had giggled, her broad New York accent still evident in the joyful sound, and changed the subject. Until this very moment, Darci thought she’d embarrassed her friend. Now…
She shifted in the recliner, pressing her thighs together in a vain attempt to squelch the growing throb between her legs. The younger men on her laptop screen were delicious. She couldn’t think of another word.
Oversexed and now under-vocabbed? What would Viv say?
“For starters, she’d point out there’s no such word as under-vocabbed,” Darci muttered, gazing at one particularly fine specimen with bulging muscles, piercing blues eyes, skin the color of toasted honey and thick, black hair messed-up in such a way her fingers itched to mess it some more. She swallowed, the throb between her legs growing more insistent. Demanding attention.
Closing her eyes, Darci leaned back in her chair, her pussy constricting with impatient want. An image popped into her mind of the dark-haired younger man from the site and she let out a soft moan.
Jay Jay was outside gnawing on an old bone. The house was hers alone for a good half hour. All she needed to do was imagine how wonderfully smooth and taut Mr. God I’m Gorgeous’ skin was under her palms, how hard and perfect his biceps, how sublime the undulations of his abs beneath her lips and she’d be more than halfway to an orgasm. With a little help from her fingers, she’d be at the moaning destination with some extra mileage thrown in for gasping, heart-hammering fun.
She slid her fingertips under the waistline of her shorts—
And her phone rang.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” she burst out, the exclamation a strangled breath. She jolted to her feet, her pulse pounding, her sex thick and heavy with expectation. Hurrying to the phone, she snatched it from its cradle and rammed it to her ear. “What?”
“Is that the thanks I get, Ms. Whitlam?” Rachel’s accented chuckle slipped through the connection and Darci bit back a curse. “Or have I interrupted something?”
“Ha,” she shot back, fighting to get her heart rate under control. At her age, she couldn’t afford to get too excited.
God, now you sound like Viv. What the hell is wrong with you, Darci? You’re forty, not eighty.
“Ha?” Rachel echoed, her voice slightly tinny with the miles between them. “That’s it? Where’s the sarcastic Australian wit I know and love so much?”
“Busy.” Darci shot her still-open laptop a quick look, a pang of disappointment stabbing into her core at the sight of her screensaver activating. She caught a fraction-of-a-microsecond glimpse of her man, with his sculpted muscles and piercing eyes, and then an image of Jay Jay jumping into the surf after a seagull filled her screen and she let out a frustrated sigh. “Sorry, Rach,” she said, turning her back on her laptop to give her American friend her full concentration. “That wasn’t nice of me.”
Rachel laughed, the sound throaty and infectious. “I recognize that tone, Darci-Rae. You have received my email, haven’t you?”
Darci rolled her eyes. “Bloody hell, am I really that much of a deviant? What made you think I was perving at younger men?”
“Because I did almost the very same thing when Cam first sent me the link. Got all distracted and unsettled.” Rachel laughed again. “It’s okay, hon. There’s nothing wrong with tending to your needs. Especially when the view is oh so fine.”
Darci suppressed a snort. Rachel was a true wordsmith. She’d love to see her uptight sister have a conversation with the New Yorker. “The view was very fine indeed,” she admitted, feeling her cheeks heat. Blushing? For the second time in one morning? There really was something wrong with her.
Rachel burst out laughing. Really laughing. If Darci didn’t know it was physically and geographically impossible, she’d have sworn she felt the planet shaking with Rachel’s mirth. “I knew it! Aren’t they gorgeous? Tell me, which one took your fancy?”
Darci dropped to the floor and stretched out on her back, crossing her ankles on the edge of the phone table. “Black hair, the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, a body so divinely perfect it must be illegal and shoulders so broad I doubt he’d fit through my door.”
“Ah,” Rachel answered. “Rico. Yeah, he was Monica’s favorite too.”
Darci rolled her eyes. Rico. Of course. What were the odds she’d fall in depraved lust with someone called George or James or…or…Jim? None.
Oversexed, under-vocabbed and now exotically clichéd? Viv’s sniffed voice whispered through Darci’s head. Where will all this end, sister of mine?
“In the bedroom with Mr. Tibbs. Now shut up.”
Rachel’s laughing question made Darci blink and she slapped a palm to her face. Damn it, she’d said that aloud?
“Sorry, Rach,” she hurried, dropping her ankles from the table and pulling herself into a sitting position. Who was she kidding? Lying on the floor? Like a teenager?
“Is that your absent sister you’re talking to, Darc?”
Rachel’s question tickled her Darci’s through the connection, the American’s obvious enjoyment at the situation turning each word to a husky chuckle. She let out a sigh, giving her laptop a lingering look. Images of Jay Jay running about on the beach slowly scrolled over the screen, hiding from view the delightful Rico and his twenty-something, firm, entirely too-desirable body.
And that’s the way it has to stay, Darci Whitlam. Fantasies are all well and good, but you have to live in reality.
She pulled a face once again. “How is it you know me better than my own flesh and blood, Rach,” she began, crossing her legs, “and yet we’ve never met? Are you stalking me?”
Rachel laughed again. “Stalking? No. Giving you a kick up the—How do you Aussies put it? Aah-ss, yes.”
“A kick up the arse?” Darci’s eyebrows rose. “About what?”
“There’s a reason I sent you the invite to join the blog, Ms. Whitlam,” Rachel answered, and for a second Darci swore she could hear something close to pride in her friend’s voice. “It’s time I laid down a challenge.”
Darci’s eyebrows shot up higher. “A challenge?”
“You are one of the most flippant, unconventional women I know, Darci-Rae. You have multiple degrees in literature and yet you devour erotic romances and pulp horror books like they’re becoming extinct. You look like a model and wear jeans tighter than a teenager, you can probably kick anyone’s ass and still have enough breath left to sing an opera—but you’re afraid to live.”
Before Darci could respond to the ludicrous statement, Rachel continued, her American accent broader with each word. “The shadow of your famous family keeps you trapped in the dark; the voice of your older sister prevents you truly going after what you long to experience and it’s about freakin’ time someone did something about it. I’ve decided that someone is me. So here’s the challenge, Darci. As of this very moment—three a.m. New York time—you are on the hunt. I dare you to find yourself a younger man and live the fuck out of every fantasy you’ve ever had and be damned what Vivian thinks.
“I dare you, Darci-Rae, to become a cougar.”
Rachel chuckled. “And then,” she continued, “blog about it.”
For the second time that morning, Darci stared in dumbstruck disbelief at the phone in her hand. For about the fourth time that morning, her sex constricted at the words she heard.
Find yourself a younger man…live the fuck out of every fantasy…
“A cougar?” she echoed, throat tight. “As in—”
“A woman ready to show a younger man exactly what it’s like to really make love. A woman not afraid of the years she’s lived and the mileage she’s traveled. As in, you.”
For a moment, Darci didn’t know what to say. And then she did. “You’re out of your bloody mind, Rachel.”
Rachel laughed one last time. “Unleash your inner cougar, Darci. Take a long look at the blog, take a long look at your innermost desires and then take a long look at the lifeguards down on that beach you spend so much time at with your dog. I want a full report by the time I’m having my bagel and juice.”
“And when’s that?”
“In about four hours. Jump on the blog, introduce yourself and share with all of us a photo of one of those sexy lifeguards you’ve told me about.”
Darci opened her mouth. To say what, she wasn’t sure.
“Oh, and by the way,” Rachel said, filling the silence with confident ease. “Did I ever tell you how old Ethan is?” She disconnected the call before Darci could find whatever words were tumbling around in her head, leaving her to stare at the telephone handset for the third time that morning.
She blinked, the conversation whirling through her head. What the hell was Rachel up to? What was going on? Why was Rachel up at three in the morning on a weekday? How old was Ethan? And just what the hell was going on?
Unleash your inner cougar, Darci.
Mouth dry, pulse pounding, Darci hung up the phone and shuffled on her knees over to her recliner and sleeping laptop. She pressed the tip of her right index finger to the space bar, heart thumping fast as the image of Rico returned in delicious color to her screen. Perfectly formed, gloriously endowed, so-much-younger-than-she Rico. Her pussy fluttered and she swallowed the lump in her throat.
Unleash your inner cougar, Darci.
Scrunching her eyes closed, she thought of the secret fantasies she’d long harbored but never shared with anyone. Fantasies involving the experience of her age and the stamina and enthusiasm of a younger man. Fantasies she’d flirted with in the safety of the local pub but never dared dream to fulfill.
Fantasies her friend on the other side of the world had picked from her brain and placed in front of her when she, herself, had been too worried about what her famous sister would say.
She let out a sigh and shook her head. Rachel was right. Viv spoke too often in Darci’s ear. Too often and too loudly.
“So, are you going to do anything about it?”
The answer to her own muttered question didn’t come.
Instead, she found herself moving her cursor to the invitation link Rachel had sent…and clicking.
Ten minutes later, she sat back and read the very first blog post she’d ever written.
Hello. My name is Darci and I’m a cougar. Well, a cougar wannabe. Actually, that’s not right either. Let me start again.
Hi. I’m Darci, I’m Australian and my friend Rachel Bridges just laid down a challenge I can’t possibly refuse. Before I even knew I had a thing for younger men, Rach did (she’s quite intelligent, isn’t she?). After only a few telephone conversations, Rachel realized what I needed and sent me the best kick up the butt I could ask for (although I’m still in shock that she did *grin*)—an invitation to join this blog and the amazing women on it.
Why the hell can’t a woman in her forties have the best sex of her life with a man in his twenties? Who decided we have to settle for the saggy-bottomed, remote-hogging men of our own age? Why the hell do I feel guilty when I flirt with a younger man?
Enough, I say! I want what society has long said I can’t have, dammit!
Rachel, I accept your challenge. This Cougar Down Under is ready to be tempted.
(BTW—I hope you like the pictures of some very delicious Aussie “cubs” I’ve included.)
(BTW, again. Is it PC to use the term “cub” or am I just bowing to the media’s latest manipulation of the English language?)
(BTW, one last time. I babble. A lot. Sorry.)
She looked at the two images she’d included. Both gorgeous Australian lifeguards, their bodies muscled to perfection, their smooth skin bronzed by the sun, their bright red Speedos leaving little to the imagination.
A deep ripple of excitement shot through her and she let out a sigh. Damn, she really was insane. Vivian was going to have a field day with this.
Delete it, Darc. Stop this insanity now.
The shocked voice in her head could’ve been her sister’s. Or hers.
She leaned forward, placing her finger on the trackpad.
And the phone rang.
Her heart smashed into her throat and, face aflame once more, as if she’d been caught red-handed doing something far too naughty, she slammed her laptop shut.
But not before quickly hitting Publish on the blog entry.
Storming across to the phone, she snatched up the phone and rammed it to her ear. “Holy moley.” She laughed, picturing Rachel grinning on the other side of the world. “Give me a chance, will you?”
Silence answered her. For a second. “Is this Darci-Rae Whitlam?” a deep male voice asked on the other end of the connection.
Darci’s heart smashed harder into her throat. Her lips tingled. Her cheeks filled with heat. “Yes.”
Silence again for a split second, followed by, “I want to press you against the wall and make love to you with my tongue.”
Darci closed her eyes. Her sex flooded with damp, immoral heat. Oh God…
“I want to eat out your pussy and fill my mouth with your cream,” the man continued. “I want you to ride my face until you scream and then I want to flip you onto your stomach and fuck your sweet cunt with my dick.”
He stopped. Waited.
Pulse pounding, mouth dry, Darci opened her eyes and looked at her closed laptop, her sex constricting. She licked her lips and pressed her thighs together. “And then what do you want to do?” she asked.
Detective Jarrod St. James stood in the cool shadow of a massive eucalyptus tree and frowned at the view before him. That his investigations had led him to this house, in a quiet suburban street complete with front-yard tire swings, children playing in the sprinklers and old men mowing their lawns in brightly colored shorts and straw hats, still didn’t sit right with him.
He might be a suspicious big-city cop, he might be hardened from dealing with Sydney’s bastard crooks, but everything in his gut told him the house in front of him, with its rambling beds of native wildflowers, its granite birdbath teeming with raucous magpies, its neatly trimmed edges and perfectly painted gutters, was not the home of an illegal phone-sex worker.
And yet, when you called the number listed for this address, that’s exactly what you got. A very sexy female voice more than willing to talk very sexy things.
Jarrod let out a silent breath. Cybercrime detectives rarely stepped away from their computers, let alone physically tracked their perps. It wasn’t the done thing. Cybercrime detectives did all their work with a keyboard and mouse and let the guys with the guns round up the crooks.
Trouble was, Jarrod hadn’t always been a cybercrime detective, and this case—a stolen-identity case with hundreds of unsuspecting victims—had struck too close to home. He knew what it was like to have one’s identity stolen and used by someone else for less-than-honest reasons. Shit, he’d needed to change his name to escape the debt collectors hounding him after he’d been the victim of identity theft five years ago. One innocent purchase over the net, one not-so-safe use of his credit card and BAM! Sydney homicide cop James Jarrodson is suddenly also Melbournian James Jarrodson, a man with very dubious moral ethics and a penchant for very illegal buying habits.
It was the reason Jarrod had moved to cybercrime. Catch the bastards before they fucked up someone’s unsuspecting life. His head always worked its best when it was focused on computers. Shit, he’d been offered a full IT scholarship to the University of New South Wales six months before finishing school.
His fists, however…well, they always worked their best breaking some lowlife’s jaw, a situation probably due to the fact he’d been a bully’s favorite target—a nerd. He’d answered the call to the police force straight after graduating high school and somewhere along the line became a homicide detective. And then came the theft of James Jarrodson’s identity, and he transferred divisions as the newly known Jarrod St. James.
As right as that choice was, however, the move to cybercrime had left him restless.
Pursuing a case of identity theft beyond the computer lab was exciting—but he sure as hell hadn’t expected to end up in a quiet street in coastal Newcastle while doing so. What kind of criminal mastermind lived in a neat little two-story surrounded by gum trees, wattle and tree ferns? With a 1996 Volvo in the driveway? A Volvo wearing a “Public Education. It’s Our Future” bumper sticker, no less?
Jarrod breathed another drawn-out sigh. Maybe he’d been too long in front of a computer after all. This couldn’t be right. This felt wrong.
“But this is the only address for someone claiming to be Darci-Rae Whitlam,” he muttered, scanning the front windows, the gauzy curtains and wide awnings concealing the interior from his inspection. “And it was someone claiming to be Darci-Rae Whitlam who spoke to you on the phone a mere three hours ago.”
With alarming ease, his cock twitched at the memory. The woman—whoever she really was—had the most amazing voice. A voice created to send a man wild. She’d said very little that could condemn her. Asked a very husky question about what he would do with his tongue after he brought her to orgasm with his fingers, wondered if he had staying power, pondered what it would be like to be tied up by him. But in that voice of hers, like smoke and velvet playing in the back of her throat…it was enough to set his groin on rock-hard alert and his pulse quickening beyond fast.
Is that the real reason you’re here? ’Cause a possible crook got you horny with just her voice?
For the third time he let out a protracted sigh, this one tainted with deprecating disgust. Fuck, what was he doing?
“Catching a criminal, Detective.” His growled whisper rumbled deep in his chest. “That’s it. Catching a criminal who’s stolen the real Ms. Whitlam’s life—and making her pay.”
He forced away the sensation of stirring steel in his cock, narrowed his stare on the front door of the house and crossed the front yard, the delicate perfume of the native violet ambling through the flowerbeds wafting into each breath he took.
Climbing the five steps leading to the front porch on silent feet, he unclipped the holster on his Glock, planted his feet slightly apart, squared his shoulders and raised his hand to knock on the door. Ready to take on whatever came—
The door flung open and a goddess with brilliant green eyes and wild, fiery-red hair smacked straight into him.
Followed immediately by a bear cleverly disguised as a dog. A growling dog.
He stumbled back a step, grabbing the goddess’s upper arms even as the bear—err, dog—slammed two paws roughly the size of the Opera House against his chest.
“What the—” the goddess cried, and Jarrod’s balls prickled in instant interest as the sexiest voice he’d ever heard caressed his ears for the second time that day.
Still struggling under the dog’s massive force, he tightened his grip on her arms, his fingers telling him exactly what his mind had already decided. The goddess was smooth, warm and firm to the touch. Sex and sin and toned feminine strength in one incredible package. He could feel her triceps flex and coil beneath his hands, a realization that made his balls not just prickle with interest but rise up and grow heavy.
Fuck, he was in trouble.
The dog shoved him, teeth bared, muzzle wrinkled, and before his stupefied brain could process the situation, he fell backward, stumbling down the front porch steps, dog and goddess joining him—reluctantly, by the sounds of the dog’s snarls and the goddess’ surprised shout—in a very undignified free fall.
The ground hit his arse, or more to the point, his arse hit the ground, at the exact moment the dog decided snarling just wouldn’t cut it anymore and the goddess decided she needed to slam into him with her entire weight. Wicked teeth latched onto his shoulder just as a slender, curved knee rammed into his crotch, followed by a palm heel to the solar plexus.
Jarrod’s groin and chest exploded in black stars of pain. He let out a shout that sounded like a croak, thanks in part to the strangled pain in his chest and the dog’s canines threateningly latched to his shoulder.
Yep, definitely been in front of a computer for too long, Jarrod.
The surreal thought flittered through his reeling mind, seconds before another palm heel struck him in the jaw.
“Let go of me, dickhead,” the husky voice growled in a dangerous caress. “Or I’ll let my dog eat you.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Jarrod choked out, struggling under the massive dog’s rather insistent attack. Thank God for his thick cotton shirt, otherwise his shoulder would look as if it’d been through a cheese grater. He gripped the goddess’s arms tighter still, the base male part of his mind pointing out she reclined full stretch atop him now, her firm softness separated from his body by nothing more than two layers of clothing and a seriously protective mutt.
The thought sent a surge of eager blood through his veins, flooding his already semi-hard dick with wildly inappropriate intent. Unable to do anything else, Jarrod flipped the goddess and her hellhound, dislodging the dog’s teeth in the process, and straddled them both. “Wait!” he panted, staring down into eyes the color of raw emeralds. With an abrupt shift in position, he pressed his knee—gently but forcefully—on the dog’s neck, pinning the animal to the ground so the bloody thing couldn’t take any more bites out of his hide, and then grabbed the goddess’s wrists and pinned them to the ground beside her head.
“Get off me!” she snarled through clenched teeth, squirming beneath him. “Who the hell are you? Get off me, you prick.”
She bucked again and Jarrod bit back a groan. With all her thrashing and writhing, there was no way she would have missed the growing bulge in his jeans. Damn it, his bloody erection kept poking her in the belly every time she moved, contained by his jeans or not.
Way too long in front of a computer, Jarrod. Way too long.
“Wait,” he snapped one last time, and for a dizzying moment he wondered what the hell had happened to his vocabulary. Maybe he’d left it on the front porch along with his pride and professionalism.
The dog struggled to escape his weight. The goddess glared at him some more, her breasts heaving in furious contempt underneath the pristine white cotton of her t-shirt. “Wait? For what? You going to serenade me next? Get your knee off Jay Jay now!”
Jarrod sucked in a breath and the delicate scent of the woman trapped beneath him rushed into his being. Making his head spin. Bloody hell, she smelled so good.
“Get off me!” she roared. “Get off me now!”
Her voice cracked, the husky tones becoming raw. Throaty.
It was too much for Jarrod. Her voice, her eyes, the tousled insanity of her hair…hell, even the menacing worry for her dog. It was all too much. He couldn’t help himself. Fuck, he couldn’t stop himself.
Tightening his grip on her wrists, Jarrod St. James—once the poster boy for the NSW Police Force, now the poster boy for their geek squad, lowered his head to the woman imprisoned between his legs and kissed her.
Two seconds later, her bear disguised as a dog escaped his knee—most likely due to the fact his brain was focused entirely on the soft fullness of her lips—and sank its teeth into his shoulder. Again.
“Fuck!” he shouted, rolling off her and reaching for his gun.
What? You going to shoot the dog now?
“Jay Jay! Sit!”
Immediately, the dog dropped into a motionless sit, black stare locked on Jarrod’s face.
Damn. Jarrod stayed equally still, his attention on the mutt, his shoulder throbbing. That’s impressive.
“You have exactly twenty seconds to tell me who you are and what you want, young man,” the goddess said, “before I let Jay Jay eat you.”
Jarrod jerked his attention back to the woman standing beside the part Doberman, part Wolfhound, part Kodiak bear. Young man? How old did she think he was? Come to think of it, how old was she? The real Darci was forty, he knew, but this woman looked nothing like the photo on Ms. Whitlam’s driver’s license.
He ran his gaze over her form, taking her in from head to toe. She was short, no more than five-five at an educated guess, and had the kind of body he usually associated with gym junkies—all firm, toned limbs and smooth curves deliciously exposed to his inspection thanks to the short denim shorts and snug white t-shirt she wore. A body well looked after. Vibrant and fit with the right amount of flesh in the right places to grab.
But her direct green eyes, almost hidden by the wild tumble of red curls and edged by small creases he could only call laugh lines, spoke of a confidence and inner strength unusual for someone his own age. Hell, he’d rarely seen women in their thirties with such self-assured poise, let alone their twenties.
It was bloody sexy and his cock twitched in appreciation—even as he began to suspect he’d found the real Darci-Rae Whitlam after all.
“Five seconds, stud,” she said in that sinfully husky voice, “and I’m calling the police.”
The threat sent an unexpected shard of something thrilling into the pit of Jarrod’s belly, and he laughed. “I am the police.” He stood and reached into his back pocket, the muscles in his shoulder protesting as he withdrew his wallet. He was going to have a hell of a bruise there, thanks to her mutt. Maybe she’ll kiss it better? “Detective Jarrod St. James,” he said, showing her his I.D. “Cybercrime.”
She blinked, her lips parting slightly, her right hand moving to rest on the top of her dog’s head. “Cybercrime?”
He gave her an easy smile as he returned his wallet to his pocket. “Crimes involving illegal activity perpetrated via the use of computers and the internet.”
Her eyes narrowed, an unreadable expression flickering in their depths. “I know what cybercrime is, young man. What I want to know is what a police officer from cybercrime is doing at my front door?”
There she goes with that “young” crap again. How old is she?
An insistent tightening stirred in his groin. Who cares?
“I have some questions for you,” he said, shutting down the notion behind that thought. She may be the sexiest creature he’d ever seen, but he still had a job to do and at the moment, his job was telling him she might be a phone-sex worker possibly operating under a stolen identity. “Firstly, are you Darci-Rae Whitlam?”
Straight red eyebrows rose up her forehead and she stoked her dog’s head. “Yes.”
He studied her face. “Can you prove it?”
The mutt growled.
The goddess—damn, she really was beautiful—arched an eyebrow. “Would you like to see my last pay statement from the Department of Education?”
Jarrod shifted on his feet. The cop in him responded to her question—evidentiary proof? Real? Fake? The primitive male animal in him, however, responded to her strength. Everything about her turned him on. The sensual, sexy body, the unbelievable chaos of her flame-red hair, the laughter lines around her stunning eyes…even the steely challenge in those stunning eyes.
God, what would it be like to fuck her?
“Yes, please,” he blurted out, the unexpected thought jolting him to the, well, to the groin.
She cocked her eyebrow again and turned away from him, presenting the round perfection of her ass. The denim of her shorts hugged the shapely curves and Jarrod had to bite back a moan.
Christ, he was in trouble.
She climbed the stairs, her arse cheeks bunching with each step, and nothing could drag his stare away. Not even a loaded gun pointed at his head and a threat to pull the trigger.
God, I fucking want her so badly.
Without pause or a backward glance, Darci-Rae Whitlam—or her imposter—disappeared inside the neat suburban house, the soft sound of the security screen hitting the doorjamb followed immediately by a low growl.
Jarrod blinked, jerking his gaze to Jay Jay.
The dog-bear-hellhound studied him, motionless.
“I won’t bite,” he muttered, remaining as still as the dog. “Wish I could say the same ’bout you.”
Jay Jay bared long, sharp, pointed teeth.
“Hey.” Jarrod assumed a wounded expression. “I’m the good guy here.”
“That may be,” the goddess spoke at his right, and he swung his head back to her, noticing the mobile phone she held in her right hand. “But I rescued Jay Jay from a very abusive male owner when he was just a puppy. In his eyes, all men mean pain.” She held out her left hand, an expectant look on her wonderfully mesmerizing face. “May I see your I.D. please?”
Jarrod frowned. “You don’t trust me?”
For an answer, she laughed. A low, throaty chuckle, and Jarrod’s groin tightened in immediate attention.
Flicking the silent Jay Jay a quick glance, he withdrew his wallet, slipped his credentials from their sleeve and handed them to her.
Their fingers brushed and for the first time in his life, Jarrod understood the concept of fate.
For whatever reason, he was meant to meet this woman. He just hoped to God it wasn’t to arrest her, because frankly, he doubted he could do it. He’d more likely beg her to run away with him. To Melbourne, Prague…shit, Greenland would do. Just as long as she was with him and he got to bury himself in her—
“Hello, Sergeant Lee? Yes, may I speak to someone in Cybercrime, please?”
Jarrod raised his eyebrows, the goddess’s question once again throwing him for a loop.
She smiled at him, the action more than a little smug. “What?” she whispered, dropping the mouthpiece of the mobile away from her lips a little. “You expected me to invite you in without checking who you were?”
Actually, he wanted to say, I didn’t expect you to invite me in at all.
Not after the way he’d dragged her from the front porch, rolled her to the ground and kissed her, all within a minute of laying eyes on her. While wrestling with her dog, at that.
He opened his mouth to reply, his blood pumping through his body with excited anticipation. Christ, he was acting like a hormonally imbalanced schoolboy!
And doesn’t it feel amazing? When was the last time you felt like this? Really?
“Can you confirm Detective Jarrod St. James, badge number 42-01-10, is, in fact, a cop?” She ran her gaze over him from head to toe, an inspection so thorough he felt his balls rise. His cock, already at half-mast, grew fatter in his jeans. He wanted her to look at him like that again while he was naked. Fuck, did he want her to look at him like that again.
“Yes, I can see why he’s called that.” Her smile stretched wider. Cheekier. “Quite fitting, really. Thank you. You’ve been a big help.”
She touched the screen of her mobile and slipped the slim device into her back pocket, eyeing him again. He fought the urge to shuffle on his feet. And the urge to fold his hands in front of his crotch. There was no way she could fail to miss the sizeable bulge in his trousers. No way in hell.
Green eyes twinkled and she patted Jay Jay on the head once more. “Would you like to come inside, Detective St. James?”