FATAL SECRETS (Heroes Rising, Book 3)

About the Book

Ten years later and the murderer of Zoe’s friend has still not been caught. But now the reporter, with a contract to write a true crime book about it, is turning over every rock she can. But someone wants to frighten her off, adding to her stress level. On a rainy night, after some long days of research and interviews, a cold drink in a roadside bar eases the pressure, along with the very sexy, war-weary ex-SEAL whose bed she falls into. Zoe’s not given to one-night stands but, for the moment, this guy is just what she needs.

Bitter at being medically discharged, still haunted by nightmares of the last mission, Sean Patterson has finally accepted his cousin Hank’s invite to check out Montana. He’s got his choice of Brotherhood Protectors or joining the staff of the new sheriff, either of which could be the turning point in his life that he needs. Either way, when he agrees to act as bodyguard for Sadie Patterson’s friend, Zoe Young, he is stunned when he’s face to face with the woman with whom he shared the best night of sex ever.

Together twenty-four-seven, the emotional connection between them explodes along with the increased danger. When they finally uncover the answers, they are shocked to learn who the killers are But will Zoe survive a last attempt on her life so she and Sean can explore a life together?


The men sat in the living room of the hunting lodge, each with a glass filled with Old Rip Van Winkle twenty-five-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. It sold for somewhere north of twenty thousand dollars a bottle, but the man who liked to call himself Baron, because one of his ancestors had held that title, could afford a closetful. He took a slow sip of the rich-tasting liquid, letting it slide slowly down his throat. If he couldn’t solve his problem, not even a full bottle would be able to help.

He looked at the man sitting in the big armchair across from him, also with a glass of the whiskey.

“I thought we were done with this.”

“We were.” The man known to only his very closest associates as Verne—a fraternity nickname from his college days—took a swallow of his own drink. “It’s been ten years, for god’s sake. Who thought someone would decide to dig it up again?”

“We all should have been prepared. Zoe Ward was a pain in the ass when it happened, and she’s turning out to be even more of one now. It’s obvious she never let this go.”

The man known as Mac, standing at the bar pouring his own drink, grunted.

“I said that from day one. If we’d arranged an ‘accident’ when she first brought this up, no one would be the wiser, and there wouldn’t have been a stink. Now, it’s all coming back to haunt us because that fucking reporter is writing a book about it.”

“Maybe someone could lose the files and we’d be done with it,” Mac suggested.

“Get real,” Verne snorted. “It was hard enough the first time around. This time, people would be on the alert, and there’d be questions.”

“Go figure someone would care that much about a fucking paralegal, after all this time,” Baron snapped. “I don’tcare how you do it but get it done.”

“Or I will,” Mac told them.

“No.” Verne drained the rest of his drink and poured another. “Just scare the shit out of her. Don’t leave any traces. I know she’s a stubborn bitch, but everyone has a trigger. Find hers and frighten her enough she drops this altogether.”

“And exactly how the fuck are we supposed to do that?”

“We’ll figure it out,” Mac told then. “We don’t have a choice. And we’d better do it before we leave here, or we’re all in a shitload of trouble.”

“Don’t forget she’s now got that SEAL with her attached at the hip,” Verne pointed out. “You can’t go around eliminating veterans, especially decorated ones. The publicity will kill us as much as anything else.”

“How about a double accident? That is plausible,” Mac said at last.

“As I pointed out, killing her is going to raise more questions than we want to deal with. Maybe killing her isn’t the answer. If she doesn’t scare away, maybe putting her out of commission for a while would work.”

“It would have to not raise any questions.”

“Leave it to me. I’m the expert here. I’ll figure it out and get someone on it.”

Baron looked around at the other two. “We can’t meet to discuss this again.”

Verne nodded. “You and I can’t be anywhere around this. We won’t get together like this again. But it better get taken care of before we’re all destroyed.”

He tossed back the rest of his bourbon, wondering if they were close to that precipice anyway. If this didn’t get taken care of, he was going to lose everything he’d worked so hard for, and that was not at all acceptable.

Chapter One

I wish the damn rain would stop.

To Zoe Young it seemed as if it had been raining forever, at least here in Helena, Montana. For the past three days, she’d been dodging raindrops—and sometimes getting soaked—while squeezing in interviews to finish a story she’d promised her editor she’d see through. It was the least she could do when he’d agreed to give her the time off so she could work on her latest book.

That book was her real reason for being in Helena. The book that had become the center of her whole life. An obsession, her editor called it. Maybe he was right. It certainly had played havoc with her social life for the past ten years. Guys apparently lost the urge to connect with her in any way when she launched into her passionate soliloquy about Justine DeLuca’s death. Murder. The subject certainly was a killer. Killer. Ha ha. If it weren’t for her fun toys, she’d have no sex life at all.

Everyone had marked Justine’s death a cold case before a month had passed, but it wasn’t personal to them. She kept getting the message there were no clues and nothing in her personal life that would cause this. Wrong place, wrong time, the police kept telling her. Everyone had just gone on with their lives, living with the sadness.

But not Zoe. Justine had been her best friend, and Zoe still felt her loss like a sharp pain. Besides, Zoe’d had a feeling all this time that there was something people were missing. The few times she’d tried to dig into it, nothing had popped. But now, with a contract to write the book and unlimited time, she was going to examine everything about Justine’s life at that time. She finally had her chance to find some answers. All she had to do was find the right string to pull.

But all the digging through old newspapers, computer files, and anything else she could get her hands on, which wasn’t much, hadn’t produced a lot, not after ten years. Trying to chase down clues that were almost nonexistent was a frustrating, disappointing project. Looking through old records and newspapers, trying to see if there was anyone at all to talk to. After ten years, it wasn’t easy. Just in case, she’d downloaded articles about major crimes that were in the process of being prosecuted at the time but, lord knew, finding a connection might be next to impossible.

People kept telling her to leave it alone. It was over. That sometimes, sadly, there weren’t answers, but she refused to believe that. Not anymore. She didn’t care if she ruffled the wrong feathers or burst someone’s bubble. It was long past time to get answers. To make someone pay. Besides, if there was nothing there, why had she received warnings in her email and on her cell? These were signs she’d certainly pulled someone’s chain, and she wasn’t going to be warned.

She’d waited too long to do this and she wasn’t giving up. This case was very personal for her, and she wasn’t letting it go. Even after all this time, there still had to be answers out there somewhere, and she was going to find them. She’d made it a personal crusade, since no one else seemed to be pursuing it after all this time.

The county prosecutor, Warren Craig, had done her a favor by agreeing to meet with her again. Coffee with him had been her last meeting after three days of digging and research and trying to get people to talk to her.

Craig was a good-looking man. His thick head of wavy brown hair was showing streaks of gray, but she thought that might be as much from his job as from age. Dark-brown eyes now had a world-weary look, and the sculptured face a few new lines. He had a reputation as a hard-as-nails prosecutor, working with law enforcement to keep major crime out of the county.

She knew he had both an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Montana. His father, senior partner in a law firm that represented Montana’s wealthiest people, had wanted Warren to go to Harvard and then join the law firm, but Warren had made it plain that he was after public service. He’d worked his way up until he was elected to the position of chief prosecutor, a tough job Zoe was well aware of. She had the sense Justine’s death weighed as heavily on him as it did on her.

“Believe me,” he told her. “I don’t think there is anyone besides you who wants answers more than I do. Justine was a very valuable member of my staff and a great person. She worked her ass off, digging out things in paperwork that someone else might have missed. A good many of the cases I won were because of her. Everyone loved her.”

“Not everyone.” She shook her head. “Otherwise she wouldn’t be dead.”

“True that.”

“Someone’s keeping secrets, Warren, and they’ve been keeping them for ten years. It’s time to dig them out.”

“People will do anything to protect themselves,” he agreed, a shadow passing faintly across his eyes. “Okay, I will pull out everything we’ve got on the case and go over it again. I promise I’ll look at every detail. If I find even the smallest thread to tug, I’ll give it a good yank.”

But he knew how frustrated she was, despite the fact he told her he thought they were at a dead end. He’d given her time in his office to again pepper him with questions. Besides, Justine had been one of his staff members so, as he told her, he still had a vested interest in the case.

Now it was Friday night, and the week was behind her. Everyone else was either going out or shacking up. She wanted a dry place and a good stiff drink. That was all. Something to ease the strain of the last few days. Too bad she still had a two-and-a-half hour drive before she could have either. That close to home she’d deadhead it out and collapse on her own bed. Thank God it would be a straight shot down Interstate 94 as soon as she reached it. A little longer, she told herself. But oh lordy, if only she could have that drink right now. Something to wipe away the cobwebs in her brain and settle her down for the gloomy drive home to Bozeman. It wasn’t far, four hours from where she was to her apartment complex, but she was physically and mentally exhausted. Drained. She wanted a small drink in a quiet place before she hit the road. Something to soothe her rattled brain.

As if in answer to her prayers, as she turned a corner in the highway leading to the interstate, a flashing neon sign on her right caught her attention.

“Red’s Place.”

That was all, just those two words blinking over the entrance to a freestanding stone and wood building. Next to it stretched a one-story motel. Zoe would bet it got a lot of business from the bar. Even on a night as bad as this, the parking lot was nearly full. Either people didn’t mind the rain or they were desperate for their drinks. On impulse she turned off the roadway into the lot and parked as close to the door as she could get. Grabbing her purse and holding her jacket over her head, she made a dash for the entrance, shoved the door open, and hurried inside.

The interior was exactly what she expected—a large room with booths along two walls, some tables and chairs in the middle, and stools lining the bar against the opposite wall. At the far left a dime-size platform held a set of drums and a couple of guitars. No music, so it must be break time.

Hello, copy of every bar in Montana.

The place was about two-thirds full, not bad for a rainy night, and she tried to decide where to sit. A booth probably would have suited her better, but she felt the need for some human contact even if it was with a stranger. The long bar seemed to be where most of the customers were, so, when the bartender looked up from serving a drink and smiled at her, she headed in his direction.

She never could figure out after the fact why, with other empty stools, she took the one next to the guy in faded jeans and a tight T-shirt. The rigid line of his body was as obvious as a Keep Away sign. Maybe she picked that seat because he wasn’t likely to bother her with questions or pickup lines, neither of which she was in the mood for. When she hoisted herself onto the stool, he slid a brief glance her way. She gave him a polite smile, but he ignored her, looked back at his drink and took a deep swallow, as if she wasn’t even there. Or gave him a bad taste.

Oo-kay. So that’s how it is.

Fine. She wasn’t in a social mood, anyway. Give her a drink and leave her alone.

“What can I pour for you?” The bartender, wearing a bright T-shirt with a Red’s Place logo on it, had moved in front of her.

She was tempted to order a double shot of bourbon on the rocks. Trying to get information from people on a nasty episode no one wanted to discuss could fray anyone’s nerves. She still had to drive back to Bozeman, though, so she settled for a whiskey sour, which at least gave her the bourbon but with a mix to tame it down.

She took a sip and let the mixture slide easily down her throat. Even with that small amount in her system, she felt the edge of the past few days begin to soften and slide away. She took another little swallow and looked over again at the man next to her.

It was hard to tell someone’s height when they were sitting down, but she figured from the long legs in the faded jeans he had to be pretty close to six feet. His brown hair had the kind of blond streaks the sun created naturally and that women would spend a hundred dollars for. It was long enough that it brushed below the collar of his T-shirt. His arms were muscular, the kind of muscles that came from hard work of some kind, not hours at a gym. On his right arm, the one closest to her, a long scar stretched from his elbow to his wrist.

But his face, at least from a side view, interested her the most. Square jaw that made him look like he clenched his teeth a lot. Sharp cheekbones. Straight nose. She wished she could see the rest of his face, but he was facing straight ahead. Besides, he had a big invisible Keep Away sign on him, but for some reason she couldn’t tear her eyes away. Why was she even interested?

As if he could feel her eyes on him, he lifted his glass to take a drink and slid his gaze sideways toward her. She knew she should ignore him but her stupid independent mouth curved into a smile, and she lifted her glass in a mock toast.

He turned to her again, giving her a hard look as if he could vaporize her with nothing more than a glance.

She was shocked when he actually spoke to her.

“If you’re going to be perky and cheerful, get away from me now.” His voice was rough and gravelly, rusty as if he hadn’t used it for a long time. “I’m allergic to those two conditions.”

She stared at him, slightly stunned by the sharpness of his words.

“Sorry. I was trying to be friendly. Nothing more.” Although she had no idea why.

“Too bad. Not in my vocabulary. I’m only friendly with my drink.” He studied the liquid in the glass. “That’s all I need.”

“Now, that’s not so.” The bartender refilled the man’s glass and wiped the bar in front of him. “You actually said ten words to me earlier. And I think you just said more than a dozen words to this nice lady here.”

Zoe couldn’t be sure, but she might have spotted a tiny quirk in the man’s lips. Then it was gone, so maybe she was mistaken. She took another swallow of her drink, the bourbon in it warming her as it slid through her system. She tried to stop studying the man next to her, but her contrary inner person wouldn‘t let her.

“It’s rude to stare at people.” The gravelly voice startled her. “Is there something about me that fascinates you?”

“Um, uh…” Since when had she forgotten how to speak? She swallowed more of her drink and put the empty glass down on the bar. In what seemed like seconds, she had a fresh one in front of her.

“Put that on my tab.” The stranger waved a finger at the bartender.

“I can buy my own drink,” she insisted.

The bartender shrugged. “I do what I’m told.”

Zoe fiddled with her fresh drink, sipped a little, put the glass down, and looked at the stranger again.

“Thanks.” She tried to sound as pleasant as possible, although she wasn’t sure why. Her bar companion seemed to have a permanent grouch on.

When he didn’t say a word, she shrugged and took another sip.

“Hey, Sean.” The bartender stood in front of the grouch. ” You could at least say you’re welcome to the lady. She thanked you.”

He shrugged. “She has better manners than I do.”

“Anyone has better manners than you do.” He looked Zoe. “We’ve been trying to civilize him, but we aren’t having much luck. You’re the first person he’s bought a drink for, so maybe we’re making progress.” He held out his hand. “Welcome to Red’s Place. I’m Red.”

She stared at him as she shook his hand. “But you, um, don’t have red hair. Or anything red. Except your T-shirt.”

Okay, she really had to be tired to say something that stupid. Had she worn her brain out this week?

He grinned. “Yeah, I get that a lot.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Don’t mind the grouch here. We’ve been trying to coax him out of his mood since he got here last week. Don’t know what his story is but he’s become kind of a project.”

The stranger set his glass down carefully. “The grouch keeps telling you to mind your own business and quit sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Zoe was actually beginning to like the rough sound of that voice. Maybe she was losing her mind or something.

“Yeah?” Red shook his head. “Not happening. First rule of bartending. Never mind your own business. We’re sort of like shrinks.”

The stranger downed a heavy swallow of his drink. “And just as annoying,” he growled.

Zoe took a sip of her own drink. “I think I’ll stay out of this one.”

“No. Please.” The stranger slid a look at her. “Stick your nose in. Everyone else does.”

“I, uh, try not to do that.” She busied herself with her drink and ended up taking a bigger swallow than she intended. She ended up coughing and blinking back the sting of tears. Great. Way to impress people.

Wait! Who was she trying to impress? The bartender? The grouch?

“Not much of a drinker?” The gravelly voice poked at her.

She frowned. “Are you always this pleasant?”

He actually snorted a laugh. “This is me on one of my good days.”

Zoe smothered a grin. She had the feeling when the grouch wasn’t so bent out of shape, he had a great sense of humor and might actually be fun to be around. He certainly had the sexy thing down pat, with his toned body and facial scruff. When he turned to look at her, she saw his eyes were almost the color of dark coffee. Damn. If this situation was different, she could get lost in those eyes. But it wasn’t, and she needed to get a grip on herself. It had to be the stress of researching this book that was doing this to her. But she did wonder what his story was.

She drained the last of her drink and was thinking about settling her tab and getting back on the road when Red switched out her empty glass for a full one.

“Wait. I didn’t order this.”

He inclined his head toward the man next to her.

“This one’s on the grouch as well. He’s not a very giving person so I‘d thank him and drink up.”

Zoe’s eyebrows lifted. Mr. Unpleasant bought her a drink?

She lifted her glass to toast him. “To what do I owe the honor?”

“Red here keeps telling me I need to be nicer. Consider this my good deed for the year.”

“Oh. Well, uh, thank you.” She took a sip from her glass and set it back down.

He nodded, looking straight ahead while he swallowed some of his own drink. At last he muttered, “You’re welcome.”

“Wow!” Red finished serving the people to Zoe’s right and walked back to where she and the grouch were sitting. “You must be working some magic on him. He’s been here a little more than a week, and this is the friendliest he’s been.”

“So he isn’t from around here?” Zoe asked.

“No. He showed up one night out of nowhere. I think he’s staying at the NoTel Motel next door.”


Her reporter’s nose was twitching. She loved mysteries and, while she had a feeling digging at the stranger would be like poking a bear, she couldn’t seem to help herself. More than one friend had told her that her rabid curiosity might get her in trouble. Well, trouble seemed to be her middle name.

“We still don’t know his last name,” Red told her.

“Is that right?” Zoe swiveled on her stool and lightly touched the man’s arm.

Looking for trouble, Young. Watch yourself.

“Okay.” She cleared her throat. “I’ll go first. I’m Zoe.” She held out her hand.

He looked at it as if it was a foreign appendage, but she stuck her hand right under his nose, forcing him to shake with her. Finally, with obvious reluctance, he wrapped his own hand around hers. It was warm and hard at the same time, the heat flowing into her from the contact. His palm was rough and calloused, and the fingers strong. When he pulled back, she felt an unexpected loss, and what on earth was that all about?

“And your name is?” she prompted.

She noticed Red standing right there, curiosity stamped on his face. She was glad no one else seemed to be interested, or he might have hauled ass out of there.

“Sean.” He growled the word.

She lifted an eyebrow. “Sean?”

“Yeah. There something wrong with that?”

“Oh no.” She found a smile. “I actually like it.”

“Well.” Red clapped his hands together. “Isn’t that cute. Zoe and Sean. Looks like we’re making progress here. I’d offer you drinks on the house to celebrate, but it looks like you’re still working on the ones in front of you. I’ll keep an eye on you two.”

As he moved down the bar to take care of other customers, the sound of a guitar tuning up floated over the hum of conversation. Zoe glanced at the postage-stamp-size stage and saw that the trio had returned for a set. In a moment a familiar country tune began to fill the. The song was high energy, and soon there was a nice crowd on the dance floor. Despite her fatigue and the frustration of the past few days, she found herself tapping her foot on the rung of the barstool.

“They’re pretty good, aren’t they?”

A tall blonde with long hair and a short skirt had come up to the bar and squeezed in on the other side of Sean. When he said nothing, she nudged him with her elbow.

“You’ve been sitting alone over here all sad and gloomy. Might put a smile on your face if you got out and moved to the music.” She wrapped her fingers around the muscle of his arm. “Come on. Even if you don’t know how, I give good lessons.”

Zoe saw the muscle in Sean’s cheek twitch, and his fingers tightened around his glass. He lifted his drink, drained what was left of it, and stood up.

“Sorry. I already have a dance partner.”

Zoe was shocked as he grabbed her hand and tugged her onto the floor. She barely had time to notice he’d been a little stiff when he stood or that he moved as if favoring his left leg. Had he been injured? Was he a veteran? She was glad the band, such as it was, had switched to slow music because she was pretty sure otherwise, between him slightly favoring one leg and her shock at him hauling her to the dance floor she’d have tripped over her feet. Sean Whoever pulled her into his arms and up against his hard-muscled body and began to move in time to the music. She recognized the tune as one of her favorites and let the music seep into her, relaxing slightly. She wished it would have the same effect on Sean, who was so uptight it was like dancing with a steel door.

Without realizing she was doing it, she let her hand drift from his shoulder to the back of his neck where she massaged the tense surface with her fingers. It surprised her how well they moved together, as if they’d danced before and often. Sean’s arm tightened around her, and he tucked the hand he was holding against his chest. By the time the song ended, Zoe could have sworn she felt him relax the tiniest bit.

She expected him to drop her hand and head back to his seat, but Blondie was still standing at the bar eyeing him like he was tonight’s dinner. So, Sean tightened his arm around her, and they moved in rhythm to the next tune. By now she barely noticed the problem with his leg. She had no idea how much time had passed or how many songs they’d danced to. She was sure Red had told the musicians to stick to the slow stuff because that’s all they kept playing.

The more they moved, the more he seemed to unbend and the more intimate their movements became. Before she realized it, her body was plastered so close to his she could feel the hard outline of his swollen cock through his jeans against her slacks. A faint warning buzzed in her mind, telling her to get the hell of the dance floor and out of this bar, but it felt so good with him holding her. His big hand was warm on her back, stroking so slowly she almost wasn’t sure it was moving.

But when it slid lower to cup the top of her ass, oh, yeah, she knew it was there. She was sure it was the alcohol that made her press even tighter against him and place a soft kiss on his neck. And wonder what in the hell she was doing. The way the two of them moved on the dance floor she wondered if maybe they shouldn’t be somewhere a little more private. Then she realized what a dumb thought that was. She didn’t even know this man. Knew nothing about him. Maybe he was a murderer who lured women out of bars.

Except it didn’t feel like that. Maybe it was the stress and frustration of the past few days. Or the fact that since she’d started work on this book her social life was less than nonexistent. And lordy, this man, grouchy as he was, was sex on the hoof. So what if she indulged herself a little? So what if probably the reason he was out here having fake sex on the dance floor with her was to send a message to the loony blonde who was still watching him with a hungry look on her face.

Whatever it was, she was going to enjoy it as long as she could.

By the time the set ended, she knew she was done for the night. She’d had one drink more than she should, and she was dog tired. But the thought of driving all the way back to Missoula was more than she wanted to face. Maybe they had a vacancy in the NoTel Motel. She’d take a chance, because all the drinks and the sexy dancing had dulled her reflexes and her mind.

Maybe Sean Whoever had an extra bed in his room. Or maybe extra room in his bed.

She laughed softly at that.

“What’s so funny?” Sean’s voice was gentle in her ear, and his breath was a warm breeze.

“Nothing. Everything. Life.”

“Yeah. I guess I agree with you. Sort of.” He took a step back. “Music’s stopped. I think I need to pay my tab and call it a night.”

“I’m with you.” She walked with him back to the bar. The blonde had moved on to greener pastures, and Red had kept their seats for them.

“One more for you guys?” Red grinned. “Or are you done for the night? Sean, this is the most mellow I’ve seen you since the day you walked in here.”

Sean snorted but didn’t say a word. He just pulled out his wallet and slapped some bills on the bar.

“This is for both.”

“Wait.” Zoe held up her hand. “I can pay for my own.”

An unfamiliar smile flirted with a corner of his mouth. “I told you. Red here keeps telling me I’m not sociable. Consider this my answer.”He looked around the bar, which, in the last hour, had become jammed and noisy. “Let me walk you to your car and get another atta boy from Red here.”

She started to say she was fine. She’d been in places like this before. But she wasn’t in the mood to deal with rowdiness, and having a genuine tough guy with her was good insurance.

“Okay. Thank you.”

It was still raining when they got outside but not nearly as hard as before. Still, she was looking forward to that drive less and less, especially after a few drinks.

“Bad weather to drive in.” Sean was looking straight ahead when he spoke to her.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”


“I’ve got extra room in my bed, just right down the line here.”

Zoe could almost feel the tension flowing from his body as he spoke to her. She wondered how long it had been since he’d been with a woman. Had whatever injury he’d suffered prevented that? She was torn between wanting to run to her car and run to his motel room.

She blew out a breath and thought, What the hell? In for a penny and all that. Right? “Okay. Sounds good.”

He held her hand as they hurried through the rain, his limp now a little more noticeable. But the moment they were in his room, all thought of it left her mind. They were barely inside before he backed her against the door. Cupped her head and took her mouth in a kiss so hungry, so voracious it set every nerve aflame. His tongue scoured her mouth, licking the tender flesh, sending shivers down her spine. He yanked her jacket off and tossed it to the floor then ran his hands up her sides and over to cup her breasts. While he squeezed them, pressing his fingers into the flesh, he kissed her again. This one was even more breath-stealing and intense.

She wound her arms around him, threading her fingers through his hair to hold his head in place. He was hard everywhere, his body a wall of solid muscle. Even when she couldn’t breathe, she didn’t want to break the kiss. The sweep of his tongue set every nerve ablaze in her body, and deep in her sex the long dormant pulse throbbed with insistent need. She wanted this to go on forever, even as she gasped for breath when he tore his mouth from hers. He trailed kisses down the side of her neck, his touch hot and sexy, sending shivers down her spine. With a move that spoke of hunger and need, he yanked her sweater up and over her head, tossed away her bra, and closed his hot mouth around one taut nipple.

Oh god!

She arched herself toward him, pushing her nipple against his lips as heat consumed her. He sucked, hard, closing his teeth over the tender bud. It felt as if a streak of fire went straight from that nipple to her core. She grabbed his hair to hold his head in place, moaning at the contact. Squeezing the breast hard, he switched to the other nipple, giving it the same treatment.

Then, with a rush of movement, he lifted her in his arms, carried her to the bed, and ripped back the covers.

“Light,” she gasped, wanting to see his body.

“Dark is better,” he insisted. “Makes touching more intense.”

Okay, at that point she didn’t care. Instead she reached for the snap on his jeans, objecting when he pushed her hands away.

“You first,” he rasped.

But instead of waiting for her to undress, he yanked her jeans down along with her bikini panties and tossed them aside. His gaze as it traveled over her body scorched her skin, and the pulse of need throbbed harder.

“Now you,” she insisted.

“Close your eyes,” he ordered. “Touching is better than seeing. Come on.”

She did as he asked, squinting a little to see what he was so obsessed about, but the room was too dark to make out anything. She heard a tiny intake of breath when he moved, and she wondered if his leg was bothering him after all that dancing.

Then she didn’t have any more time to think. He was on the bed, kneeling between her thighs, bending her knees back and spreading the lips of her sex. She felt the rush of his hot breath on her skin, then his mouth was on her, licking that wet slit, tonguing her clit, giving it a gentle bite. She was out of her mind with need, aroused to this point faster than she ever remembered, and she tried to push herself closer to that marauding tongue.

He must have grabbed a condom when he’d undressed because she made out the silhouette of him rolling it onto his cock. When he was sheathed, she grabbed the swollen shaft and wrapped her fingers around it, but he gripped her wrist and moved her hand aside.

“Later,” he growled. “After.”

“After what?”

“After I come the first time. Then I can take my time with you and make you come all night long.”

His words alone were nearly enough to trigger an explosion. He lifted her legs over his shoulders and stroked her slit with a finger. Then, with a forceful thrust of his hips seated his cock completely inside her.

“Oh sweet Jesus.” He whispered the words, but they still woke up every nerve in her body. “Zoe, Zoe, Zoe.”

Those were the last words either of them spoke as he pounded into her over and over and over. She lost all sense of self and place as her entire focus was on that hot shaft filling her and the hard body thrusting at her again and again. The explosion, when it came, was cataclysmic and consumed them completely. Zoe wasn’t sure her heartbeat would ever be normal again, or that her body would ever forget the feel of him.

They lay there for long moments, Sean keeping his weight on his elbows to avoid smothering her, even as his cock still throbbed slowly inside her tight, wet walls. Neither of them said a word, as if speaking would destroy the mood. At last he eased himself from her body and off the bed.

“Don’t move,” he growled in his raspy voice. “We’ve only started.”

As he headed to the bathroom to dispose of the condom, she wondered to herself if it was possible to kill yourself with sex.

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