The bad guy in Absolute Zero spends a lot of time at a private sex club, which is based on an actual location in Tampa, Florida. If you want to know the real-life inspiration behind the locale in this book, shoot me an email!
If someone had explained to Sierra Hunt what absolute zero was, she would have told them that it was exactly where she was. At a total standstill. And her pounding head wasn’t helping the situation. She pried her eyes open and looked around. Where was she, anyway? Her hotel room? No, not hers, but one like it. Then whose? She scrunched her forehead trying to remember exactly where she was and how she’d gotten here. Was this a repeat of Jeremy’s situation?
Jeremy. Her brother. Then it all came rushing back at her.
The trip. The last chance. Then the disappointment and depression. The depressing phone call to her brother. The man in the lobby.
They had spent a fortune on attorney fees trying to arrange an appeal, but all for nothing. Every attempt after the first one had been denied and now every option that they’d had was exhausted. Every attorney she had consulted—if quick brushoffs could be called consulting—explained they had no additional grounds. The three other attorneys she’d tried previously had all told her they saw nothing to indicate there were grounds for yet another appeal. And the governor’s office would not take her call.
Jeremy was already showing the physical effects of being in prison, and she’d begun to fear for his mental health as well.
Cheryl Andrews, Jeremy’s wonderful girlfriend, somehow continued to believe in him but then she’d became ill with a bad case of the flu and had died in days. Jeremy still had not recovered from the loss.
Sierra had flown here to New Orleans to meet with a high-profile attorney who she’d been told was a champion of difficult cases like this. He was her last chance, the man she was told who could find a loophole. He’d refused to make an appointment, but she figured if she just showed up, he’d at least have to give her fifteen minutes. She’d waited all day in his office, only to have him tell her she should accept the fact her brother was guilty and prepare herself for the fact he would die in prison. She left his office depressed and discouraged. She had one option left, but she couldn’t exercise it until the morning, damn it.
On top of that, for the past few weeks she’d had the uncomfortable feeling someone was watching her. Following her. She’d been doing weird things to see if that was true, but if it was, whoever was on her tail was very good at it.
Exhausted, she’d been paying no attention to anything as she made her way through the hotel lobby. Hot tea, she told herself. That was what she needed to soothe her nerves. The drinks wagon was still open in the lobby, and the scent of the various brews tantalized her senses. She chose peach, a flavor that always helped her relax.
Then, as she turned away to head toward the elevators, she bumped smack into a solid wall of masculinity, spilling her hot tea all over the shirt of the man standing in front of her.
“Oh, my god! I am so sorry.”
She looked up…and up. The first thing she noticed was he could model for a photo of warriors. He was tall, lean, muscular, with a shadow of a beard lining his jaw. His eyes were a piercing blue, and the whole image was accented by a stripe of white hair that ran backward from his forehead. For a moment she was frozen in place, mesmerized. Then reality jabbed her. She grabbed napkins from the drinks wagon and tried to blot his shirt dry, but he stayed her hand.
“I’ll handle it. Don’t worry.” But he was pulling the damp material away from his chest and removing the hot liquid from his skin.
His voice was rich and deep and sent shivers along her spine. A sharply defined jawline and angular cheekbones were highlighted by electric blue eyes and thick lashes. His lips, curved into a hint of a smile, looked as if they were usually set in a grim line. She wondered what had created that change.
“No, no, I am so sorry. I—”
Flustered, she made things worse because she was still holding the now half-empty cup of tea and more splashed out of it. When she turned to toss the cup into the trash, her hand bumped the metal edge of the counter. She dropped her purse which then fell open, scattering her things on the floor.
If she could have melted into space, she would have done it. Instead, she crouched down, doing her best to gather items and stuff them back into her purse. And of course, the stranger insisted on helping her.
She grabbed her key card from her purse, and in the process scattered some of the contents again. God. If only the floor would just open up and swallow her.
“You going to your room? Come on, I’ll make sure you get there.”
Go with a strange man up to her room? Was she crazy? Absolutely not!
“No, thanks, I—”
“You’re bleeding.” The stranger took her hand and lifted it. “You must have hit it pretty hard on the counter.”
She glanced down, shocked to see blood welling from a long cut and running down over her fingers. Holy god. What next?
The stranger grabbed more napkins and pressed them against the cut.
“You can’t let something like that go. It needs attention. If you’d rather, I can take you to a walk-in clinic—?”
“No. Please.” That was all she needed. “I just want to get to my room.”
“Do you have bandages? Antiseptic? If not, you could be courting an infection. I can fix it, at least temporarily.”
She was so rattled she didn’t even have the brains to refuse. Instead, she let him lead her across the lobby to the elevators. Inside the car, he punched the button for the tenth floor.
“I’m on nine,” she protested.
“But the first aid’s on the tenth, in my room.”
He was taking her to his room? What if he…?
“Don’t worry.” He grinned at her. “I’m not planning to attack you. That is, unless you want me to. Ah, here we are.”
Still in a daze, she followed him down the hall and into his hotel room. She had to admit he was very efficient in cleaning and bandaging her cut.
“Are you a doctor?”
He shook his head. “Former SEAL. We learn how to field dress wounds. Okay, there you are.” He frowned. “You’re still trembling. What can I get for you?”
“Can you just hold me for a minute? I’ve had the day from hell and this hasn’t helped.”
For a moment he looked as if he were about to refuse. But then, just as she was about to get up, he put his arm around her and pulled her against him.
“We should at least introduce ourselves. I’m…”
She held up her hand. “No names, okay? I… It’s better this way.” She tried a smile. “More mysterious.”
“Okay. Just call me Eagle, then.” His mouth curved into a hint of a very sexy grin. “That was my call sign in the SEALs.”
She figured the streak in his hair had something to do with that.
When she didn’t respond, he shrugged. “Okay. No problem.”
And still he held her.
His touch was gentle for a man his size, and that was what probably broke the dam of her emotions. One minute she was sitting there, the next she was crying all over his shirt, tears she’d been holding back since this whole nightmare started.
Everything after that was a blur. She was blubbering on his shoulder, then hugging him.
“I’m going to kiss you,” he said slowly. “If you don’t want it, just say so. That’s okay. Really. I’m not in the habit of forcing myself on women.”
But there was no force involved, except maybe for her clutching him so desperately and kissing him so hungrily, as if that could erase this whole nightmare. It seemed her body’s needs had awakened after dozing for months. Awakened by a man who could best be described as sex on a stick.
And this morning, her body hummed pleasantly with intense satisfaction, even as it flushed with embarrassment.
Oh, my god! Oh, my god!
This is not me. I don’t do things like this. Ever.
But apparently she did.
My god, I’ve never even met the man before. I must have been out of my mind.
She’d chalk it up to severe emotional stress combined with exhaustion and depression. Lifting the sheet and blanket covering her, she peeked at her body. Oh, god! Just as she suspected. She was completely naked. Crap! What in hell had she done?
She closed her eyes…and it all came slamming back into her.
Oh, dear sweet lord.
At last the tears stopped flowing. She knew she should leave the room, but it felt so good just sitting there, hugged to his body. One minute he was stroking her back gently, the next they were kissing. As their kisses grew hotter, so did her body. Then it was as if someone had flipped a switch.
She was so lost in it that she didn’t even stop to wonder why she was doing this with a complete stranger. Instead, kisses that shut down her brain were exchanged. Kisses that were hot and demanding and involved a whole lot of tongue. Clothes somehow disappeared. Hands coasted over naked skin, touching and squeezing and stroking. While he cupped her breasts in his palms, brushing the nipples with his thumbs, she reached between their two bodies to wrap her fingers around his rigid, thick cock.
His body was so hard, his muscles so well-defined that she could trace the outline with her fingers. The hair on his chest was soft over the chiseled planes beneath it and all made more enticing by the heat that rose from him.
They tumbled onto the bed, barely taking time to strip back the covers. She lay beneath him, his fingers braceleting her wrists, holding her in place so she was literally immobilized beneath him. Rather than frightening, it made her nipples peak and the walls of her pussy tingle in anticipation.
Heat blazed in his eyes as he raked them over her naked body while his hands touched her everywhere. At each stroke of his fingers, another fire ignited until she was squirming with need. She tried to reach between them to find his jutting cock again, but he brushed her hand away.
“Too close,” he rasped.
He swirled his tongue around her nipples, grazing them with his teeth before trailing his tongue down her body to her shockingly heated sex. She hadn’t been with anyone in so long she’d almost forgotten what it was like, but apparently her body woke up in a hurry.
Nudging her thighs apart, he settled himself between them and bent his head to lap greedily at the wet folds of her sex. Each stroke of his tongue ignited more flames, awoke more nerves. Her inner walls fluttered, seeking something to fill her greedy channel, seeking his cock that was so hot as it brushed against her skin. She had never been this aroused before, this hot, her body this needy.
“I can’t wait,” he panted. “I have to be inside you right now. Next time will be slower, I promise.”
He grabbed one of the condoms he’d dumped on the nightstand and rolled it on with hands that shook slightly. Then bending her legs back so she was wide open to him, he drove into her, filling every inch of her. She was grateful she was so wet that she could take him easily.
He stared intently into her eyes, hunger blazing in his, then set up a rhythm that was unrelenting and fast. But she was ready. Oh, more than ready, a shock after going for so long without. He pounded into her, his movement almost frenzied.
“Look at me,” he growled, desperation in his voice.
She lifted her gaze to lock with his, mesmerized by the heat smoldering in those deep blue eyes.
“I can’t hold off much longer.”
“Don’t…hold back,” she gasped, the orgasm already rolling up from deep inside her.
“Let go,” he told her.
And she did.
They exploded together, an upsurge of volcanic proportions, her inner walls quaking with spasms as they gripped his shaft, milking him again and again.
Then they were done.
He collapsed forward on his elbows, doing his best to catch his breath while studying her face as if memorizing every inch of it.
Sierra had no idea how long they lay there like that, too weak, she was sure, to even move. Finally, he eased himself from her body, pinching the condom closed and moved into the bathroom to dispose of it. Then he crawled into bed next to her, pulling her body against his and…
Sierra’s eyes flew open again, and the rest of the night came flooding back. They’d had sex so many different ways she was surprised they’d gotten any sleep. The connection was so spectacular it shocked the hell out of her. And with everything they’d done, why wasn’t she more tired this morning?
Morning! It was morning?
Holy hell, she had to get out of here. She had urgent business to take care of.
Stay, her body screamed. This guy is a keeper.
Keeper? How could she even think about that with desperation and disaster like twin devils beating on her head. And god only knew what he thought of her, blubbering all over him then falling into bed with him the way she had, with no holds barred. None. Just completely unrestrained sex.
Good lord. What the hell had she been thinking?
Jeremy. How had she let herself forget about Jeremy and his looming deadline and fall into bed with a total stranger?
A hot stranger.
Well, maybe it was all the unrelenting stress she’d been dealing with. Maybe it was because she didn’t know him and had no intentions of anything beyond this one night, but still, no excuse. She probably should have worried that he was a killer or something, but then she thought, no, a killer wouldn’t make sixteen kinds of erotic love to her.
Okay. Okay, okay, okay. Enough of that. She had to get out of here. The clock was running out on her brother, and she had only one option left to her. She’d saved it for last because she’d hoped like hell one of the attorneys would come through for her. She blessed the anonymous person who had called late one night and left a message for her to reach out to Senator Alicia Kane.
Of course, if Senator Kane had used these people, they must charge both arms and legs. Sierra had money but not that much, especially after attorney after attorney had drained it with legal fees that had accomplished nothing.
She’d borrow it if she had to, because if that didn’t work, she was out of options.
Looking frantically around the room, she saw her clothes draped over the back of a chair with her purse on the table next to it. Obviously, he’d folded them, because she remembered ripping them off last night and tossing them aside so fast they’d looked like refugees from a windstorm. Heat crept up her entire body as she remembered her reaction to him and the things they’d done.
Where was he, the stranger who she’d fucked her brains out with?
No, not really a stranger, not after the things they’d done together. And she knew his name, right? At least his first name. Eagle. Well, he looked like one with the white streak down his hair. A duffel bag sat beside the chair where her clothes lay, and a laptop sat on the desk. But where was he?
Then from behind the closed bathroom door, she heard the sound of the shower running.
Good. Maybe she could get out of here before she had to face him. What on god’s green earth was she doing spending a whole night fucking some hot stranger while Jeremy’s future was so disastrous? She had definitely lost her mind as well as any residual common sense.
Wriggling out of bed, she dragged the sheet so she was at least partially covered while she grabbed her clothes from the chair. She forced herself to check her purse before she did anything else. There was no reason to think he’d robbed her. He certainly hadn’t looked like he needed money, but then, what the hell did she know? She’d spent the night having imaginative sex with a man who didn’t even know her name.
She wanted to stick her head in the toilet and flush it.
Okay, money and keys still there.
Dropping the purse, she began pulling on her clothes, not paying much attention to how well she did it, just yanking them on as fast as she could. She’d worry about showering and taking care of her hair later. Right now, all she wanted was out of here.