Excerpt: Midnight Run
Book 2: The Midnight Series
The Warehouse’s big steel fire doors closed behind them and suddenly the world fell silent. No music penetrated the door. All that was left of the clatter and chaos inside was a deep beat, more a vibration than a noise. It was exactly that time of night when it was too late for new customers to come to The Warehouse, and too early for the clients to be going home. They were alone in the large loading apron that now served as a parking lot.
It was snowing. Two feet from the door and they were in their own private, white world, pristine, silent and clean.
Claire’s coat was a long cloak with a hood framing her face. She tipped her head up and closed her eyes in delight. She drew in a deep breath. The corners of her mouth curled up. “Oh,” she breathed. “I love the snow.” Her head turned and her eyes opened. “Thank you,” she murmured. “For rescuing me and for offering to drive me home.”
The hooded cloak, the dark night, the heartbreakingly beautiful young woman, the snow. It was harder than ever for Bud to shake off the feeling that he was caught in a fairy tale. The woodsman, maybe, escorting the Princess back to the palace after rescuing her from the dragon. Or the knight, coming to claim his fated bride.
She wasn’t a Princess. He had to keep reminding himself of that. She was a perfectly ordinary Portland girl named Claire. Claire Schuyler. She spoke in a normal American accent and was wearing ordinary clothes. And yet, if she threw back her cloak to reveal a ball gown instead of a blue sweater dress and she’d said in a foreign accent that she was the Princess Esmeralda of a far-off kingdom, he wouldn’t have been surprised.
“No need to thank me,” he said and took her elbow. It had been really hard, back in The Warehouse, to keep his touch light as he guided her through the teeming pack of people. What he’d wanted to do—what he’d had to clench his teeth to keep from doing—was to lift her in his arms and carry her away. Find some quiet room somewhere and strip her clothes off. Find out if her skin was as soft as it looked, trace the shape of her breasts with his hands, pull out those sticks in her hair and watch it tumble over bare shoulders, curl around her breasts and hard little nipples.
His cock stirred in his pants.
This was definitely not what she’d want. Her rescuer coming on to her. She was taking a big chance, getting in a car with him, a total stranger. Granted, she didn’t have much of a choice. The redheaded bitch had abandoned Claire outright, off to fuck the latest boy-friend. And the bartender was right—the taxis wouldn’t come out here. No, she’d been stuck.
“Here we are,” he said quietly, a hand on the passenger handle. The snow was falling in light drifts, big fat snowflakes, fairy tale snowflakes. Claire pushed her hood back and lifted her face to him, lips upturned. He found himself foolishly smiling back, though he wasn’t much of a smiler. The flakes kissed her skin and melted at the warmth. He knew exactly how they felt.
He opened the passenger door and took in a deep breath. She was getting into a car with a man she didn’t know. A man who outweighed her by at least 90 pounds and who was a foot taller than she was. Time to break the enchantment and tell her who he was.
Why was he hesitating? He’d be breaking cover, but he’d already done that with the bartender. That wasn’t it.
Bud was used to being brutally honest with himself about himself and he knew the real reason he didn’t want to say who he was.
Women had one of two reactions when they found out he was a homicide detective. They were either turned off or turned on. He didn’t want either one from her. He didn’t want her to shy away in disgust and he didn’t want her to be morbidly curious about what it was like to fuck an armed man who investigates dead bodies for a living.
For a little while longer, he wanted her to be The Princess and he wanted to be her knight.
She was looking up at him as he hesitated in the vee of the open car door and he sighed. Time to break the spell.
“I want you to know you’ll be safe with me,” he said quietly. “I’m a—“
“I know,” she interrupted, her voice just as quiet as his, as if both of them had been battered by the noise of The Warehouse. “I know I’m safe with you. I can feel it.” Her eyes searched his for a long moment, luminous gorgeous blue eyes, full of trust. She smiled, bent and got into the passenger seat. He was left holding the door open, feeling like an idiot.
He got in and started the engine, letting it warm up. They turned to each other and he had to grip the steering wheel hard not to pull her in his arms.
She was wearing some kind of light perfume that had been drowned out in the sharp smells of The Warehouse. Now the delicate scent all but reached out with insidious tendrils to grab hold of his brain and play havoc with the cells. The perfume, coupled with the stunning eyes and delicately uptilted mouth smiling at him, also made its way into his pants. He started getting a hard-on. Good thing his sheepskin jacket reached his knees.
This was crazy. He was crazy. He was going to escort her home, go back to his place, take a cold shower, fall into bed, then leave early tomorrow morning for Astoria where he’d fuck Nancy non-stop until Sunday night. Get the Princess out of his head.
“Okay.” The engine was warm. “Where do I take you?”
She gave him the address. It was on the other side of the city, about eight blocks from his apartment complex. “I’m afraid I’m going to make you cross town,” she apologized. “In the snow.”
In the din of The Warehouse, when they’d had to shout to communicate, he hadn’t had a chance to hear her speaking voice. It was just his damned luck that it was soft, light, feminine, seductive and sexy as hell.
“No, that’s okay.” Bud pulled out of The Warehouse’s parking lot. “I’ve got a lot of experience driving in the snow and I have snow tires. And chains, if necessary.” He peered up out of the windshield at the fat, wet, lazy flakes. “This kind of snow won’t stick to the ground anyway.”
“It’s so pretty, though,” she said softly, smiling. She was looking out the window, as delighted as a child at Christmas.
“Mmm.” Bud could hardly breathe. She was so pretty. So pretty it almost hurt. Her skin glowed like palest ivory in the lights from the dashboard. She was turned away from him, looking out the window and watching the snow so he could watch her—a much nicer view than the snow.
There was very little traffic but he was driving slowly so he could sneak frequent glances at her without running into a lamppost. She was in profile, a pale cameo against the dark window. Perfectly curved eyebrow, long lashes, straight nose with finely arched nostrils, the corner of her mouth uptilted in an unconscious smile. That must be her default expression. A smile.
She looked pretty and innocent and he shouldn’t have this massive hard-on he’d developed. She wasn’t his type at all.
He didn’t like pretty and innocent. He liked women who knew what they were doing in bed and who knew what the score was.
He’d had a hard life and he had one of those jobs where you put on rubber boots and waded through the muck and filth of the worst humanity has to offer.
He’d seen it all—wife-beaters and hopheads and drunks. The lowest of the low. And the highest of the high. Respectable businessmen who hired a hit man to take out a business rival. Society matrons who smothered their newborn children because the baby interfered with their social life. Rich youngsters who beat their parents to death because they wanted a bigger allowance.
Yeah, he’d seen it all. Twice. The last thing he needed was some innocent young miss who’d be stiff in bed and cling to him afterwards.
Nope, he was going to drive pretty little Miss Schuyler safely to her door, say goodnight politely like the gentleman he wasn’t, go home, get some shuteye, then take off for his weekend of hot sex. Yup, that’s what he’d do.
His cock wasn’t listening to a word his head was saying.
His cock didn’t give a shit about home or sleep. It didn’t want Nancy Whosis, it wanted her, the Princess, and it wasn’t taking no for an answer. He had a boner in his pants so hard he could knock on doors with it. She shifted a little in her seat and a little whiff of that perfume wafted his way and he nearly came in his pants.
Jesus, what was this? He hadn’t come in his pants since he was 13 and Molly Everson took off her bra behind the Rexall. He’d always had a lot of sexual stamina and coming once had just primed the pump. Molly had left smiling. But that was a long time ago, a lot of women ago, and the Princess not only hadn’t taken her bra off, she wasn’t giving off any sex signals whatsoever.
Any other woman who wanted it would have had her hand on his thigh by now, would have been sighing and crossing her legs and giving him long meaningful glances. Pretending it was too hot in the car and unbuttoning. That’s what Nancy had done two weeks ago when they’d taken a drive down the coast and she’d ended up giving him a blow job in the car.
Claire was just sitting there, a faint smile on her lips, watching the snow, buttoned up to the neck in her cloak, slim pretty hands still and folded in her lap. No come on at all.
But he remembered, and above all his cock remembered, how she’d filled the sweater dress she had on. She was slender, almost slight, but curvy with surprisingly full breasts. Round and full and high.
Walking behind her as they made their way around the Pit he’d had to clench his fists not to clasp her around her tiny waist. He had big hands and he’d bet he could almost span her waist. Hold her there as he kneed her legs apart from behind, slip right into her. She’d be tight, he’d bet anything on that. Tight and wet and…
Oh God. He nearly groaned aloud. This was torture. How much longer?
He tried to peer through the snow that was falling more thickly now and caught a glimpse of the white and blue street sign on the corner. Another three blocks to go and he could dump her on her doorstep and go home and jerk off. He was as hard as a rock. He wasn’t going to let Nancy up for air this weekend, that’s for sure. He felt like he could fuck for 48 hours straight.
But not Nancy.
Jesus, what had that thought come from? Since when was there a reasonably attractive woman—and Nancy was more than okay if a little on the clueless side—he couldn’t fuck?
He needed to get rid of the Princess, right now, she was messing with his head.
He stepped on the gas a little and the wheels spun. The whole universe was conspiring against him, he thought, as he slowed the car back down. He could feel sweat breaking out. Come on, come on, let’s get her home, hurry this up.
But the road was slippery and he was making lousy time.
“Turn to the right here,” she said, scanning the street and even her voice in the dark turned him on. No, he was already turned on, the voice was just icing on the cake.
It was another tortuous ten minutes before he pulled up to a house that looked just like her—small, charming, nicely built and pretty. Jesus, this gentleman thing was deadly stuff because to keep in character he’d have to walk her to her door. With a hard-on. The knee-length coat would cover it but it was there and it fucking hurt.
He killed the engine, grimly determined to play the part of the gentleman to the bitter end, for the first and definitely the last time in his life. It would take two minutes, tops. Walk her up to her door, shake hands maybe, though just touching that smooth skin would be like lighting a detonator, then walk away—hobble away—with his hard-on. That’s what he’d do.
“Here we are.” His voice was hoarse. He cleared his throat. “I’ll walk you—”
“Would you like to come in for some coffee?” she asked in a rush, the words tumbling over themselves. Wouldyouliketocomeinforsomecoffee? As if she’d been rehearsing it.
She’d turned to him fully, but wasn’t meeting his eyes, asking his chin if he wanted to come in for coffee. Her breathing was slightly speeded up and the hand holding her cloak together was trembling. She was asking him in for more than coffee. She might not even be aware of it herself, but he was.
Coffee was a synonym for sex.
No sex, no. Not with her.
She was trouble with a capital T which rhymed with C which stood for Claire.
It wouldn’t be happily vigorous sex for a couple of hours, then a handshake and goodbye, which was all he was looking for, all he wanted from a woman. He liked sex that was hard and long and uncomplicated. He didn’t want sex with her. She had complication written all over that gorgeous face of hers. No sex with Claire Schuyler. No no no.
His head was clear on that and he opened his mouth to say no, but his cock got there first.
“Yeah, love to.”