Feb 7 2012 12:00pm
I am so excited about the release of Deadly Sins and I hope you are too.
It’s always hard, starting a new series, especially when dealing with a long running villain who hides himself as well as this villain has decided to hide, and with heroes as intensely male as the Callahan heroes are determined to be.
As with all series it seems, another hero has invaded the storyline: Archer Tobias, the sheriff of Corbin County.
Rafer Callahan (Midnight Sins), the baby of the Callahan cousins, was a hero who was a bit different for me, and as his story evolved, Logan insisted on making his debut sooner than I anticipated. I had to fight with him through most of Midnight Sins. His story is here now, and I have to say, he opened up in ways I hadn’t expected.
He was determined to have his heroine, even when he knew the danger to her could end up destroying them both.
Logan isn’t as dark as Crowe, but there is an intensity about him, a strength that absolutely charms me. He is terrified to reach out and love anyone. He is terrified of his own feelings and needs where Skye is concerned. But his hunger for her, his need for her, is stronger.
What would it be like to be loved like that?
To have a man like Logan Callahan reach out and turn your world upside down?
He is everything I hoped for—and so much more.
I hope you enjoy him as I have.
I also hope you enjoy the glimpse of Crowe you’ll get in Deadly Sins. He’s going to be very special….and pretty unforgettable.
But next up is Archer Tobias, our sheriff. Always too curious, and always watching too closely, he’s determined to learn who has stalked the Callahans for so many years—and why. And if it means using the one woman he swore he would stay away from? Well, sometimes, fate just has other plans for a man.
I hope you enjoy Logan and Skye’s story, Deadly Sins, and the wonderful heroes to come that you’ll meet there.
And I hope you enjoy your time in Corbin County. There’s always a surprise around every corner, and a hero just waiting to be met.
Get a sneak peek of Deadly Sins by Lora Leigh (available February 28, 2012) with an excerpt of Chapters 1-3.
Logan Callahan has fought hard to forget what happened that fateful day, so long ago. But every night he tries to sleep, he relives the nightmare. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees the woman whose life he could not save…
A newcomer in town, Skye O’Brien is a mystery to Logan. Like him, she is a night owl. Like him, she is fighting her own demons. Like him, she hides a secret in her eyes—a fire that consumes him with every glance. Could she be the one to heal him?
When Logan’s ex-girlfriend is brutally murdered, his past implicates him as suspect—and his new neighbor Skye may be the only person he can turn to. Together, they share an attraction that can’t be denied. But as he searches for the real killer, he discovers that Skye is tracking down a murderer too—and she intends to use him to do it…
He was just as handsome now as he had been in his picture twelve years before. Just as hard, just as tough, and giving just the same impression of a man a woman could depend upon.
A man a woman could find pleasure with.
For Skye O’Brien, the past six months had been an adventure in getting to know the man her foster sister Amy Jefferson had thought so highly of.
The man who had been the cause of Amy’s death.
Logan Callahan hadn’t wielded the knife that had slashed her throat. He had simply danced with a friend, maybe flirted a little.
The Sweetrock Slasher had taken care of the rest when he had raped, tortured, and murdered the laughing, caring young woman Skye had called “sister.”
But she could clearly understand now why Amy had risked so much for him and why, as a newly inducted FBI agent, she had begun investigating the deaths that had occurred around him twelve years ago. She had died before she could ever report what she had learned.
Logan wasn’t handsome in a pretty sense. He had that rough, tough, cowboy way about him that drove women crazy and no doubt had his ego stroked on a daily basis.
Broad shoulders, long, powerful legs. Big feet. Which made her wonder if what they said about big feet was true. And there wasn’t an ounce of spare flesh on that hard, corded body either.
Men, her mother had always laughed, were like fine, fine wine. They only got better with age.
In Logan Callahan’s case, it was true enough. At thirty-three, the small crow’s feet at the corners of his sexy, velvet green eyes added to his appeal. The few fine lines at his forehead and at the corners of his lips spoke of a man who hadn’t had an easy life, though she knew he’d made the most of the life he’d been given.
The gleam in those unusual eyes as he watched the women who stopped to chat, to smile, to entice, assured each and every one of them if he was of a mind to take them to his bed, then it would be an experience they would never forget.
They might not survive long afterwards, but while they were breathing, they would never forget it.
No doubt that knowledge was the reason he rebuffed each overture and flirtatious suggestion he dance with them.
After all, what man wanted to suffer the knowledge that his lovers would die simply because they were his lovers?
Instead, Logan went out of town for his amusements and he made a point to never choose a lover, resident or not, from the beauties that attended the weekend Socials hosted by Corbin County every year, much to their disappointment.
“Now, Mr. Callahan, you just know I can teach you how to move in perfect rhythm,” Skye said as she moved behind him, mocking the last hussy’s advances as she matched his sway. “Darlin’, you just have to let me.”
His lips almost quirked into a grin as he stared down at her ruefully. “I’ve seen you dancing in your living room,” he drawled. “Sweetheart, you’re so tune deaf you can’t even stay in rhythm with that damn eighties music you like so well. I rather doubt you can teach me anything.”
He could teach her though. In some very interesting ways.
“Oh my, be still my heart.” She poured all her nonexistent Southern charm into the mocking response as her fingers fluttered against the flesh above her breasts left bare by the tank top she wore. “I think I may expire of pure excitement. Dare you even deign to speak to me?” She batted her eyelashes at him as she gazed up at him from the corner of her eyes.
It wasn’t far from the truth. There weren’t many people Logan Callahan bothered to give more than monosyllabic response to.
He snorted at her mockery. “Sweetheart, I love a good comedy, and watching you dance has become the highlight of my evenings.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Peeping Tom.”
“Exhibitionist,” he countered. “You knew I was watching.”
“Of course I did.” The lie came easily. “I thought you needed a little amusement. Don’t expect a repeat performance.”
She had had no idea he watched her. She could barely keep her cheeks from flushing in embarrassment.
“Now, you’re breaking my heart,” he said, pretending to bemoan the loss. “Tell me you wouldn’t be so cruel.”
Setting her beer to the table beside her and tucking her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, Skye had to laugh at the retort. Her gaze swept out over the courtyard of the small town square called City Park.
The central courtyard was a lush summer haven of rich blooms, flowering trees, and small grottos. The gazebo held the band; around it, concrete stamped in the form of bricks served as a dance floor.
She loved it.
“I still can’t believe they have a crowd like this every weekend,” she commented as she watched dancers sway to the sensual beat.
“Next year will make sixty years of the Weekend Socials,” Logan agreed. “I’ve been coming to them most of my life, along with my cousins.”
His youngest cousin, Rafer Callahan, was dancing with his fiancée, Cami Flannigan. Holding her close, her head against his chest, they swayed to the music with a sensuality that was enviable.
Damn, they needed to find a bed, not a dance floor.
“So why aren’t you out there dancing?” he asked her.
“Not drunk enough yet,” Skye grumbled, knowing he was laughing at her.
Logan grinned. “I’ve been watching you come here since the first Social of the season, Miss O’Brien. You never dance and you never get drunk.”
“I know better than to humiliate myself in public.” He made her want to laugh.
How long had it been since she had wanted to laugh?
Was it her imagination or did he drift just a little bit closer? Could she really feel his body heat just a little bit more?
“Don’t know how to follow a lead either?” he asked.
“Whose lead?” she quipped, holding back a smile as she glanced over at him again. “Come on, Callahan, I think the only one out there that hasn’t yet stepped on his partner’s toes is your cousin. I like my toes unsquished if you don’t mind too much. Besides,” she drawled. “I hear the only nice Callahan is the one that’s taken.”
She gave him a wink and blew him a quick kiss before picking up the beer she had set beside her and moving off.
Logan watched silently from the corner of his eye as his friendly little neighbor stopped here and there, flirted a little, rejected every offer to dance, then slowly headed to the square’s more public entrance.
He frowned. She was leaving and this was not the time for a woman to walk home alone.
The party didn’t start breaking up before midnight. There were still the drawings for the homemade pies and gift baskets contributed by local bakers and businesses.
She would be on her own, and he knew, perhaps better than anyone, that there were monsters in the dark.
Setting his beer to the table beside him, Logan walked over to his cousin, Crowe, and clasped him on the shoulder. “I’m heading home.”
“Go, man,” Crowe murmured quietly. “I think I’m going to hang around and watch a while longer. See if I won that pie I bought chances on.”
Logan stared back at his cousin askance. “Which pie?”
“That apple cobbler, a’ course.” Crowe grinned, though the curve of his lips belied the ice in his eyes. “You know I like me some cobbler, cuz.”
It wasn’t pie his cousin was fond of, but perhaps he was a little too fond of the baker of that pie.
“Good luck on that one,” Logan snorted. “How much did you spend last week trying to win that cobbler?”
“Between the three of us?” Crowe growled. “Probably close to three hundred bucks.”
“And this weekend?” Logan asked.
Crowe grinned to that one and leaned closer. “I had Jeannie Thompson, the sheriff, and that new deputy, John Caine, buy my tickets. I’ll get it this time.”
He was pissing in the wind and leaning on luck. Because only a blind man reading braille would actually call out the correct numbers drawn. That one was rigged from the start.
But hell, it was Crowe’s money and his right to spend it wherever he wanted to spend it.
Moving off, Logan followed his own temptation, knowing he was making a mistake, but being too dumb to stop himself.
Was it safe? It was a question that raged through his mind day and night. Supposedly, the copycat Sweetrock Slasher who had struck out several months ago against his cousin Rafer was dead.
His name had been Lowry Berry. He had tried to kill Rafer’s fiancée, Cami, and had nearly succeeded, too. He’d killed one of Rafer’s ex-lovers and thought he would take Cami out as well. Instead, he had ended up dead himself.
But was it really over? Lowry’s final words had been a warning that he hadn’t been working alone. Had he been telling the truth, or trying to ensure, as the sheriff believed he was, that the Callahans never had any peace? No evidence of a partner had ever been found.
Moving quickly along the sidewalk and crossing to the next, he came up on Skye as she walked along the well-lit streets.
Damn, she had an ass.
He had to grit his teeth, had to restrain the urge to reach down and shift his erection just a little to the side.
That cute little rounded butt made a man’s hands itch to cup it, to clench his fingers in the rounded curves and drag her closer to him.
Or to have her legs wrapped around his hips, his hands filled with those lush curves as he buried—
Hell no. He wasn’t going there.
But he could still watch her ass shift and sway, and he would have kept his eyes there if he hadn’t noticed her lower back suddenly tense.
She might appear as though she was walking unhurriedly to the casual observer, but Logan could now see the slight tension in her shoulders.
“You’re not supposed to walk home alone, Miss O’Brien. The square has a good two dozen posted warnings about leaving the square on your own,” he said when he was close enough that she would hear him easily.
Pausing, she turned back to him, her dark eyes suspicious as she waited for him to catch up to her.
“Now, Callahan, I’m sure axe murderers have better things to do tonight than pick on me,” she quipped.
Any amusement he might have felt instantly evaporated. “And you should have better sense than that.” Monsters existed and she should know it.
Monsters sometimes carried knives and drugs. They incapacitated their victims, raped them mercilessly, then tortured them by slicing a little here, a little there, before finally cutting an innocent woman’s throat.
Long dark hair dipped across her face as she inclined her head, suddenly somber. “You’re right; I didn’t mean to sound so flippant. And I would appreciate some company.” She rubbed her arms briskly. “The back of my neck was starting to itch the minute I crossed the street on the other side of the square. I was about to turn around and come back for one of those carriage rides home when you spoke up. The comment was more contempt for my own nervousness than an attempt to make light of it.”
There was an edge to the night, he’d felt it himself and couldn’t seem to shake it. But hell, his neck had been itching for well over a week now. He let his gaze carefully sweep the area. “Did you see anyone?”
His hand settled at the small of her back as they began walking again.
“Not really.” He felt her shoulders shift in a light shrug. “Your normal culprits. A raccoon in Mrs. Jakes’s yard and Mr. Jakes peeping from his window.”
“There’s not much crime on Social weekends,” he told her quietly. “Those not attending keep a careful eye out. The cameras installed on the corners help to ensure culprits are identified. If anything happens, it’s usually in the more rural areas. And the courts are damned hard on anyone caught attempting to take advantage of the families attending. But those from outside of town don’t always attend on a regular basis, so it’s never easy to predict who’s going to be where.”
“The Socials are more a ’town’ party then?” She looked up at him, seeing the dark, almost forbidding cast on his face as he watched the night.
“Pretty much.” He nodded slowly. “Though ’most everyone is welcome.”
’Most everyone. She knew from the investigation Amy had made into the Callahans’ history a dozen years before that the Callahans hadn’t exactly been welcome.
It had been during one of those Socials that Amy had died just outside town, her body left at the base of Crowe Mountain, the highest peak in the county and owned by Crowe Callahan himself.
Skye crossed her arms over her breasts. That chill was racing over her again.
“Here, you’re cold.”
Logan stopped, drew the long-sleeved over-shirt he wore off and helped her ease her arms into it.
Chivalry wasn’t dead after all.
“Sure you don’t need it?”
He snorted at her question. “I wear it just in case some little girl is too forgetful to wear her own.”
She had to laugh at that. He was gruff and rarely talkative, surprising her with the fact that he was actually doing more than saying “yes” or “no” to her questions.
“What are you doing in this county, Skye?”
The serious, quiet question almost managed to throw her off guard. She’d expected it long before now to be honest. She was surprised he’d managed to hold off through the months she’d all but ruined the solitude he seemed to seek while he was home.
“It’s as good a place to work as any,” she told the partial truth. “And I needed someplace to hide for a while, I guess.”
And she wasn’t going to talk about it. She had her reasons for being here, and one of them really was to hide for a bit. She was on a forced leave of absence, paid thankfully, while she dealt with a few nightmares from her last case. A case that had touched too close to her sister’s death and the unresolved injustice of it.
But tell Logan Callahan that and he would withdraw so fast it would make her head spin.
“Hiding from choices or a person?” he asked as she pulled the shirt more firmly around her.
“Choices, I guess.” She glanced up at him again with a slight smile. “Sometimes we don’t make the right choices, do we?”
“So why come to Corbin County to hide?” There was still that edge of suspicion.
“I could go wherever I wanted. Besides I have a friend here from school. My last year of private school I was a mentor to a first-year student, Anna Corbin. She suggested I check Sweetrock out and I loved it.”
He tensed, as she had expected him to. “Know Anna well, then?” The question was voiced carefully as though he were now doubting his choice to speak with her, let alone walk with her.
“As well as possible considering her granddaddy hates me.” She gave a light, unconcerned laugh. “An orphan with no connections and few prospects isn’t exactly the type of contacts the Corbins want for their children or grandchildren.” He should know that well enough.
“Ah, yes, the life of privilege,” he drawled. “The princess must have the right sort of friends.”
“Or so her family believes.” She gave another light laugh. She had to be careful here.
She didn’t want to trip any alarms with this man. Logan Callahan had the ability to dig deep into a person’s background, uncover all their secrets. If he managed to uncover even the slightest deception, he would completely distance himself. She couldn’t afford that. Not if she wanted to learn the identity of a killer.
“You mentioned you’re an orphan . . . ?” he finally asked as she felt him glance down at her.
“My parents are dead.” She shrugged. “They were killed when I was young.” She didn’t want to discuss it. Not here and now.
His hand tightened at her back, slid to her hip and drew her closer.
“Yeah, you’re right, John Corbin would strenuously protest your friendship with his granddaughter,” he said, mercifully changing the subject. They crossed another street and stepped onto the street they both lived on.
“Corbin, his son, his daughter-in-law, his cowboys, their wives, their children, their business associates.” She couldn’t help but laugh.
“Sounds like the Corbins,” he agreed. “Hell, it sounds like the barons, period. Not one of those families has much worth where decency is concerned.”
And he should know. He was the grandson of one of those barons. His grandfather, Saul Rafferty, along with John Corbin and Marshal Roberts, Rafer and Crowe’s grandfathers had disowned the three of them. They had nearly destroyed them and it had only been in the past year that they had won the twenty-year-old battle for the inheritance that each of their mothers had left them.
“Yeah, well, I don’t have to deal with them, thankfully. And Anna’s different. At least, so far. She’s still a good kid.”
But she worried, Skye admitted. Anna was still young, still impressionable, and possibly so very easy to turn into the puppet John Corbin wanted, under the right circumstances. Or with the right betrayal.
“Looks like we’re home.”
She walked beside him as he led the way to the thick, tall evergreens that all but created an impenetrable curtain across the large side yard the two houses shared.
The bricks of the patios were less than thirty feet apart on the other end of the house where another heavy line of the thick evergreens grew. It created a hidden oasis between the houses. The one point that couldn’t be spied upon unless the spy were in one of the rooms facing it.
“Thank you for walking me home.” She slid his shirt from her arms, though she didn’t comment on the friends.
She didn’t want to appear the least bit curious about him or his family, let alone the friends of his parents. The curiosity ate her alive sometimes, but she had to be careful or she could destroy six months of dedicated work to get close to this man, to get close enough to make herself a target. If the Sweetrock Slasher had a partner who was still at large, Skye intended to draw him out.
She had never believed that Lowry Berry had been working alone, and from what the new deputy, John Caine, had learned, she was right.
Logan took his shirt slowly, his expression still, his gaze considering as he watched her.
Skye pulled her keys from her pocket and unlocked her door. She hesitated for a moment, then gave him a quick smile and a wink.
“Sleep well, cutie,” she drawled before turning to go inside.
“Skye, stop this game you’re playing.”
Before she could evade him, his fingers curled around her arm and he pulled her back to him.
Skye found herself suddenly flush against him, staring up at him in shock as the hard imprint of his erection pressed into her lower stomach.
Swallowing tightly, the feel of the heavy shaft beneath his jeans sent a spike of trepidation racing through her. She now had proof that he wasn’t exactly small in that department.
“What game?” Oh God, who knew that finding the strength to sound innocent would be so hard?
Then he was pushing the fingers of his free hand into the back of her hair, clenching, sending sharp spikes of sensation racing across her scalp, he tugged until she was staring up at him, eyes wide.
“Logan, you’re acting strange.” The accusation was nearly laughable. He was almost, just almost, doing what she wanted him to do.
His lips were just a breath from hers. The scent of him, the taste of him, so close.
But she was not making that first move.
He had to want her bad enough.
He had to be unable to resist her.
But he hadn’t reached that point yet. But he was so close.
Then he released her—slowly. His fingers loosened in her hair reluctantly as if he had to force them to do so. Soon he was stepping away from her.
“You’re playing with fire,” he growled.
She had to resist the urge to smile. “I never play with fire, Logan. Getting burned sucks.”
And that was no more than the truth. She had no desire to fall in love with him, but she wouldn’t mind sharing a bed with him for a while. Besides the fact he was hotter than hell, and the fact that he drew her as no other man ever had, there was no way she could accomplish her goal if she didn’t get into his bed.
She was setting herself up as bait. To do that, she needed to be Logan’s lover.
He was making a mistake and he knew it.
Each time Logan made his way to the patio door and looked out toward the soft light glowing from Skye’s living room window, he knew it was a mistake.
A week had gone by since the Social. She hadn’t shown up at the town’s weekly get-together, and Logan had returned early because he was sick of waiting on her.
What a hell of a mess.
He was thirty-three years old and he’d managed to never let a woman get past his guard.
Definitely in the past twelve years he’d made damned certain no woman pierced the shield he kept around his heart.
It was a requirement, keeping his heart solitary, yet, here he was, watching her. And that was just one of his problems.
His dick was spike hard, throbbing with a hunger that was damned hard to deny, and he was standing there like a fucking teenager staring into his best girl’s window.
Son of a bitch, he was coming to a pitiful end and he knew it.
He’d told her to stop playing games, and she’d done just that, if she had been playing one at all. He wasn’t so sure anymore.
Had he become so suspicious over the years, so hard and certain that everyone had ulterior motives that he couldn’t accept someone for who and what they were? Was it impossible for him to accept that a woman could just want him?
Swiping his fingers through his hair, Logan admitted it was damned hard to believe that anyone in Corbin County did not have an ulterior motive.
He’d spent a week on the computer and on the phone with damned near every contact he possessed in the information business. The background check he’d done on Skye O’Brien had come up as clean.
Well, with the exception of a few too many speeding tickets. And there was that time in college she’d gotten a little too drunk and had propositioned a cop outside a bar.
Normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill, girl-next-door adventures.
And he didn’t want to believe it. Suspicion was a vicious, sharp-toothed demon that gnawed at his mind.
Suspicion turned to hunger as she came into view.
Long, dark waves spilled down her back, and she was wearing another one of those damned, vintage nightgowns that made the animal hunger that already tore at his balls rise to a howl of pure lust.
The black filmy lace looked so damned soft, he ached to touch it. To touch her.
The material molded over her breasts, all the way down to her delicate waist before falling to the floor in a long sweep that trailed majestically behind her.
He wanted to strip it from her body. To peel it slow and easy from her shoulders to her hips and watch it pool at her feet.
Naw, once he got it to her hips, he wasn’t watching anything but those incredible breasts.
Suddenly the soft strains of a sensual R&B instrumental began to fill the night rather than the raucous dance tunes she usually played.
She wasn’t the best dancer he’d ever seen, but damned if he didn’t love watching her move.
She had a natural sensuality to every step she made, to every twist of her hips and every pleasure-loving step she made.
Even now, as she peeked curiously in the direction of his patio, he could see the urge to move to the music eating at her. And he had to grin.
He’d deliberately left the lights out, so she would believe that he was gone. For the past week, she hadn’t danced for him once.
She closed the curtains on the sliding doors and kept the lights down low, and he’d known, fucking known, she was dancing and denying him the chance to watch. But now she thought she was alone.
Scratching at the raspy short beard that covered his lower face, Logan tipped his head to the side and watched as she began to sway.
Slow and easy, her arms lifting above her head, her hips began to move in langorous, sensual circles. Fuck him. He’d never been so hard, so tormented with the need to fuck one woman in his life.
The pulsating, let’s-fuck music drifted like a heated breeze through the night as her movements, maybe not in rhythm to the music exactly, but definitely in rhythm to the hunger raging through him, tormented him.
She was dancing for a lover.
Enticing. Sensual. Pleading for a touch.
Her hands lowered, one crossing over her stomach as the fingers of the other slid down her neck, her head tilting back. The hand crossed over her stomach, gripped her own hip before her fingers curled just enough to allow her nails to rake over her hips.
His abs tightened, flexed, as he felt the ghostly sensation of those nails raking over his own hip, rasping over his flesh and sending bolts of sensation to strike at the taut sac of his balls.
Hell, he could jack off to the sight of that and probably come hard enough to lose the strength in his legs. A sight like that begged for sex. Pleaded for a man’s touch. Made him ache to bury his cock between her thighs and demand that her hips sway and roll with just that rhythm.
He was a second from striding across the distance that separated them when a new sound intruded on the night.
At first, Logan was certain he had to be hearing things. A soft, distressed little whine.
Stepping into the house on silent feet, he grabbed the weapon he kept on the shelf next to the patio doors before moving to the edge of the doors he’d slid open earlier.
There it was again.
“Ease up, little bastard.” The hiss of the demand had his muscles tensing, denial surging hot and furious through his body.
Stepping from the house, careful to stay within the shadows, Logan waited.
He didn’t have to wait long.
Saul Rafferty had aged in the months since Logan had last seen him. He had been with his wife, Tandy, at the time.
He’d stared at the old couple, and told himself he hadn’t seen the sheen of tears in Tandy’s eyes, or the desperation on her face.
Saul had been just as cold and hard-edged as always. He had led his wife past their only grandchild, continuing on their way as though Logan hadn’t existed.
“Come here, you crying little shit.” Despite the harsh words, Saul’s tone lacked the gruff disgust Logan normally heard in it.
Saul sure as hell couldn’t be doing what Logan thought he was doing.
But he was.
Logan waited silently as the old man made his way around the edge of the house.
In one arm he carried a whining little bundle, in the other, his hand gripped a small Igloo pet house.
“What the fuck are you doing, old man?” Logan shoved the gun in back of his jeans, propped his hands on his hips, and glared at his grandfather.
Saul didn’t even appear surprised.
“I should have known you wouldn’t have the decency to actually be gone.” Anger filled his rasping tone. “Can’t just be up-front can you, boy? Have to keep the damned lights out and pretend you’re not even here.”
The response didn’t even make sense, but the bundle in his arms gave an excited little yip and all but jumped from Saul’s grip.
“You’re not fucking doing this to me again,” Logan snarled as Saul set the pup in the grass. It bounded ecstatically over to him.
Chomping down on the strings of Logan’s sneakers, it gave little baby growls, tugging and begging to play.
The Chinese pug was damned small and cute as fucking shit and he didn’t want a damned thing to do with it.
He didn’t want to remember the one other pup he’d had as a kid, or its death. He sure as hell didn’t want the responsibility of keeping this one alive.
The lights on Skye’s patio flared on, the music shutting down as she became aware of the presence of Logan and his grandfather outside.
“Logan?” she called out to him, the concern in her tone making his chest clench.
Only his two cousins had ever cared what the hell happened to him. What was he supposed to do with a sexy neighbor who now seemed to feel the same?
“Everything’s fine, Miss O’Brien,” he called out, refusing to glance over at her. “Mr. Rafferty is just taking himself and his damned dog and leaving.”
“Keep your voice down,” Saul suddenly snarled. “You’re stupid, boy, do you know that? Ain’t got an ounce of the sense your daddy had.”
“Don’t.” Logan was in Saul’s face faster than he would have thought possible, definitely before he could consider his actions. He was almost nose to nose with the old man, staring down at him as fury pounded in his blood. “Don’t mention my father. Don’t mention either of my parents. Don’t say their names. You’ve pretended they didn’t exist for over twenty years, and now, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t exist for you.”
“Sucks don’t it, boy?” Saul responded, refusing to back down. “Knowing we share blood.”
“We don’t share a damned thing, Mr. Rafferty,” Logan sneered.
Saul didn’t even have the good grace to flinch. “Keep hating me, boy. It’s the best thing for both of us.”
“Then stay the hell off my property and keep your damned animals away from me.”
“Your grandmother’s dying, Logan.”
Saul’s comment, so out of character, so outside of the conversation, caused Logan to still, to stare back at him, confused.
“What the hell did you say?”
“She’s dying.” Saul’s voice thickened as he lowered his gaze and stared the pup that suddenly sat next to Logan’s foot, its wrinkled face filled with happiness as it panted up at him. “That one’s from the last litter of her favorite little bitch. The runt. She wanted you to have her. She begged me to bring her to you.”
She’d wanted him to have it for what reason? She hadn’t cared if he lived or died for over twenty years and now all of a sudden, she gave a fuck?
He highly doubted it.
He should tell Saul that he didn’t give a damn, Logan told himself, but he couldn’t get the words past his lips. There had been a time, long ago and far away, when he had idolized this old man and his wife. He had spent hours playing with their puppies and had sat on his grandfather’s knee as Saul read to him.
He’d convinced himself he only imagined those years. They couldn’t have happened.
But they had.
“Take her back,” he ordered. “You’re not doing this to me again.”
Again. He’d been ten when Saul and Tandy had given him his first pup. Three months after Saul’s daughter—Logan’s mother—and his son-in-law had died in a blazing crash on a mountain road, that pup had been poisoned.
It had died in Logan’s arms, the vet refusing to answer his door, to help the boy who stood outside screaming for help. Begging the son of a bitch to save that dog.
“I didn’t do it to you.” Saul met his gaze. “I had no reason to try to kill you, Logan.”
“You killed the dog.”
Saul shook his gray head. “The pup ate your food at that damned Social, in the community center. Your food. I wasn’t there and I sure as hell didn’t hire someone to kill a kid. If I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t a’ killed an innocent animal just to get to you. It broke your grandmother’s heart—”
“Nothing about me ever broke either of your hearts.” It wasn’t possible. They would have had to care first.
“Boy, you don’t know shit.” Contempt filled the words, then Saul glanced to his side.
Skye was still standing in the doorway. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but she seemed to be keeping watch.
Her arms crossed over her breasts, a glare on her face. She didn’t look the least bit happy to see Saul Rafferty there.
“That girl’s worried about you.” Saul lifted his lip as though to sneer before giving up the effort and shaking head wearily. “Tandy wanted you to have her. I brought her to you. It’s that damned simple.”
“Take it back. She didn’t want me and now I don’t want either of you or your fucking dogs.”
“No, all you want is your be-damned pride and your certainty that you have all the answers,” Saul bit out furiously, his aged body seeming to tremble. “That’s why I say your daddy was a damned sight smarter, Logan. He knew better than to just listen to his own fucking pride.”
“And whatever he listened to got him killed,” Logan snapped. “Didn’t it, Saul?”
It was their suspicion. Logan, Rafe, Crowe. They knew their parents’ deaths hadn’t been an accident. Their fathers had grown up on that damned mountain, had learned to drive on that road. They would have never headed across it during a blizzard.
Unless they’d had no other choice.
“You’re a fool.” Saul lost the anger in his tone. “A fool, boy, and you’re too damned blind and filled with pride to see it.”
“Oh, I see it.” Hatred burned inside him and clashed with the memories of the boy he’d once been and had hung on to for so long. “I’ve seen it for a long time, Mr. Rafferty. Seen you for the monster you, Marshal Roberts, and John Corbin always have been. Tell me, did you kill my father’s parents like you killed your own daughter?”
The old man flinched then. Agony filled his gaze, and though Logan wanted to deny it, wanted to convince himself that Saul Rafferty didn’t have enough feelings to know grief, still, he couldn’t deny it was there.
It twisted his lined face and tightened his lips and caused the other man to shake his head slowly.
“No,” he finally whispered, his voice so rough Logan could barely understand the words. “No, Logan. I didn’t kill them like I killed my own child.”
Stunned, not by the non-admission so much as by the single tear that slipped from Saul’s eye, Logan could only stand in shock and watch as, head down, shoulders weighed low, Saul turned and walked quickly out of the yard.
The sound of a vehicle starting up at the side of the street pierced the darkness long moments later and reminded Logan that the old bastard had forgotten something.
“Son of a bitch,” he cursed as he stared down at the pup. It had curled against the side of his shoe and was now asleep.
Turning his head he watched as Skye made her way across the short distance between their patios, her expression worried as she watched him.
“Want a dog?” Keeping his tone cool and unconcerned was suddenly the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
“She looks like she knows where she wants to be.” Bending to her knees, unconcerned of the grass beneath the delicacy of her gown, she ran the backs of her fingers gently down its tiny head.
She was rebuffed quickly.
A tiny growl and the pup moved from her, curling at Logan’s heel before he bent, picked it up by the scruff, and deposited it in the little doghouse Saul had brought.
He stalked into the house then, slamming the door closed against the sad little whines it sent up at being barred from the house.
She had to follow him, didn’t she?
“Go home, Skye,” he told her wearily. “This really isn’t a good time.”
“Is any time a good time for you?” Her tone wasn’t confrontational, but neither was it kind and caring.
What the hell did he expect? He’d known months ago tact wasn’t her strong suit.
“No. No time is.”
He turned back to her as she shifted, moonlight spilled through the glass doors, washing over the gown and robe, making them no more than a shadow around her body, outlining her in an aura of dark magic.
“Fine, I can leave.” She shrugged. “Stay here and enjoy your own miserable company, Logan, since no one seems to be good enough to share it with you.”
Before he could stop her, she turned and stalked away from him, leaving the house quickly, careful to keep from slamming the door on the wiggling little pup attempting to get in.
He made himself wait.
He waited at least a nanosecond before he followed her, catching her at the big oak tree that sat between the two houses and pulling her quickly into his arms.
It was the kiss that destroyed him. That brought home the realization that ignoring the attraction simply wasn’t going to work. He couldn’t ignore her. Not when she tempted him with a siren’s gaze and lips so lush he hungered to taste them.
Not when she drew him, challenged him, and with every look assured him that teasing him, touching him, was her ultimate goal.
Not when he held her like this and felt the perfect fit of her body.
He’d fought it for six months. Now, too damned late at night for common sense, the darkness wrapped around them and the sultry summer heat sizzled outside the doors and inside them at the same time.
He gave in to hunger and knew that moment when the loner inside him realized just how lonely he’d been.
Logan stared into her dark eyes, realized his fingers were wrapped, tangled in long, dark, silky tresses, and he couldn’t let go. His cock tried to push past his jeans, her shorts, and straight into the heart of her feminine core. His entire body throbbed with the need to possess her until nothing else mattered, until no other hunger dared to intrude.
He hadn’t even known he was going to kiss her. Hell, he didn’t even remember what she was saying as she laughed up at him, chiding him the way she did over whatever she was chiding him over. He couldn’t even remember what he’d done this time. All he remembered was that destructive thought that he knew the perfect way to shut her up.
By kissing her.
And now he had no idea how to stop.
He wanted to pull back.
He told himself he was going to pull back.
He told himself he wasn’t going to let this go any further. She was his neighbor. She was off-limits. He didn’t mess with any women within a hundred miles of Sweetrock because they ended up dead.
“What are you waiting on?” Her voice trembled along with her lips as sensually drowsy lashes brushed against her cheeks, then lifted as though weighted.
That siren’s gaze, sensual and seductive, and filled with an innocent hunger that, frankly, amazed him.
Amazed him that she could feel such hunger for him. That any woman who knew his history, knew the deaths that followed him, could possibly want him.
His fingers tightened in her hair, slowly pulling her head back, tugging at the strands and her obviously sensitive scalp as a moan whispered past her lips.
Oh yeah, she liked that.
“I think I’m waiting for my common sense to return.”
Sensual, sexual hunger tore at him, raced through his veins, tightened his gut, and left him all but shaking in the face of the knowledge that he couldn’t let her go.
Surviving meant holding on to her just a little longer.
“Should we be showing common sense at this moment?” The question almost brought a smile to his lips.
He hadn’t had reason to smile in a very long time.
Why wasn’t he surprised that the smile was tempted with this woman? A woman he couldn’t seem to take his hands off?
Hell, he’d never had a problem letting a woman go before. He’d never had a problem stepping back or walking away. Sex didn’t control him; he controlled it.
Until this woman. Now he had a very bad feeling she might end up controlling him.
“I’m sure we should be.” But his lips were still lowering to hers, settling against them, rubbing over the softest silk in the world as he parted them.
Sensation sliced through him again. The instant his lips touched hers a sizzle of heated electricity seemed to sweep through him, bringing his senses to heightened alert.
Damn. It was like sinking into pure sensation.
Her lips parted beneath his as his tongue swept over them, licking at the soft flesh, tasting the inner sweetness, and becoming drunk on the ambrosia.
Each cell of his flesh was drinking her in and becoming intoxicated with her.
He’d never felt this with a kiss in his life. He’d never felt his entire body come alive in quite this way. And it was definitely coming alive. Every nerve ending was suddenly tingling with heat. His flesh was drinking in her touch at every point of contact.
Pressing her tighter against the trunk of the tree he’d braced her against, he suddenly wanted more than he’d ever believed he would want from a woman.
He wanted her against him. Naked. Just this willing. Just this hot, with nothing between them. No clothes. No gowns. No second thoughts. No regrets.
No knowledge of where it could end.
In her bed or in his.
He wanted her lush, naked body spread beneath him, her thighs parted for him, her cries filling his ears as he sank inside her.
His lips lifted from hers just enough to move to the side and place a delicate kiss at the corner of hers. “Skye, you’re killing me here.”
Her head turned, following him, brushing against his lips.
And all thought evaporated.
It could have been the first time he’d kissed a woman for all the finesse he could grasp. There was no finesse. There was no sense of time or place as he kissed her like a man dying for touch, for sensual pleasure.
And he couldn’t understand how such pleasure could exist in such a simple touch as two lips melded together.
His tongue swept over hers, then tangled with it in an exotic dance. His hands slid down her back, gripped her hips, then slid to her thighs and lifted them.
Ah hell yes. He wasn’t about to break the kiss again to groan in pure undiluted fervor.
He wouldn’t do it.
He wouldn’t remember the past, the present, or the nightmares he often walked the night to forget.
Tugged at the strands of hair he held, his entire body tightened at the throttled little moan that fell from her lips. He ground his hips against hers. He swore he could feel the heat and dampness of her sweet little pussy through their clothes.
Against his chest her breasts pressed like firm, hot weights, her nipples hard enough he could feel them through his shirt.
He wanted to do more than to feel them through cloth. He wanted his hands on them, his fingers playing with them. He wanted to take them into his mouth and taste the sweetness of them.
Pushing his hand beneath the hem of her shirt, he stroked up her stomach until he was cupping one of the full globes with desperate fingers as she arched against him.
He’d never believed pleasure like this could exist in just a kiss. Hell, not for a man. A woman maybe; they were softer, sweeter. They thrived on the romance and the soft words and gentle touches. A man was just fucking hungry.
And he was damned hungry, but he was also experiencing the pleasure. The pleasure of touching her, the pleasure of her touch.
But even in that hunger he felt something more. A something that had his self-preservation instincts screaming out in alarm. A something he knew could very well end up destroying them both.
Skye wasn’t expecting the sensations that assailed her.
She hadn’t expected it when she had realized there was a confrontation going on between him and someone else.
She’d had no idea it was his grandfather.
She’d had no idea it would end here.
Skye tightened her hold on the man leading her through an abyss of sensation and didn’t know whether to cry out in fear or scream in pleasure.
She was crying in pleasure.
Shards of pure, unadulterated excitement sang through her body as his hand cupped her breast, his thumb and forefinger gripping her nipple and applying just the right amount of pressure. As she gasped, arching to him, a shudder raced through her body and seemed to explode between her thighs. The detonation was an explosion of hunger. Her senses were flooded with a need that didn’t make sense, as her sex grew impossibly wetter, preparing, begging for possession.
A startled moan of protest escaped her throat as his lips suddenly pulled back for her. A tingling rush of heated sensation attacked her scalp as he pulled her head back and blazed a path of erotic pleasure down her neck.
Highly sensitive, soaking in his touch and begging for more, her skin heated, and another moan escaped her throat as his teeth rasped against her flesh.
“Logan.” She needed more. More of the pleasure and the heat that came from each touch, each stroke of his lips against her flesh, each exciting touch.
She felt like a virgin again, experiencing her first sexual touch. No, she couldn’t say that. Because even then it hadn’t been this exciting or this sexually dark.
She could feel him holding back, holding on to his control, and the knowledge of it sent a rush of bravado racing through her.
She didn’t want his control.
She wanted him out of control. She wanted all that dark, intent hunger she could feel threatening to escape.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” he growled, his voice rasping, as dangerously sexual as the knowledge of the hunger he was holding back.
“Bet me.” Oh, she knew what she was doing, and she knew now exactly what she wanted.
This was why she couldn’t stay away from him. Why she had taken one look at him and all she could think about was his touch, his kiss.
Not just the reason she was here, or the sister she needed vengeance for. God no, she needed him for her as well.
A stinging little nip of his teeth against her neck was her reward for her challenge.
But if that was her reward, what was the slow lowering of the straps of her gown until they cleared her breasts?
Skye held her breath, waiting, watching, as his gaze dropped to her breasts, despite the fact that it had to be too dark for him to actually see much.
His thumb raked over a nipple again, drawing a quick, muted moan from her lips.
“How pretty.” He cupped the mound, lifting it further. “I’ve been dying to taste those hard little nipples. Every time I’ve seen you I’ve watched your nipples harden, press against your clothing as though begging for my lips.”
Oh yeah, that was exactly what they were doing.
She could beg him verbally if that was what he wanted.
She would probably end up doing it anyway.
His head lowered.
The warmth of his breath was the first warning of what was to come. When his tongue raked over the excited little tip, though, nothing could have prepared her for the sharp burst of radiant heat that exploded against it.
His tongue licked, rubbed against her nipple as though to soothe it, but it only grew tighter, harder.
“You taste like candy, Skye.” His voice was a dark rasp of hunger. “I have a helluva sweet tooth.”
The almost-playful quality in the sexually roughened male tone had a flood of weakness racing through her. A lassitude edged with hunger and need.
His hard, corded body tightened beneath her touch as her hand slid from his shoulders to his neck, then buried itself in the overly long strands of dark blond hair.
The thick strands were just slightly coarse against her fingers, caressing her palms as she filled her hands with them and tried to bring him closer. She just wanted to bring him closer. To make him assuage the need his playful tongue was building as he bent his head to the hard peak of first one nipple, then the other.
His tongue was a velvet rasp of exquisite pleasure as it rubbed over the sensitive tip. His tongue hardening to probe at the bundle of nerve endings as she arched to get closer, to feel more.
It wasn’t enough. Oh God. Just a little more pressure. Just a little more sensation.
His teeth suddenly gripped the taut point, tugging at it, sending a furious rush of nearing rapture to tighten through her womb, to clench at her clitoris and spill a rush of dampness between her thighs.
It was like being thrown into a wild vortex of increasing sensual eroticism. A pleasure she had no idea how to counter and absolutely no desire to fight.
“Yes.” She couldn’t hold back the little moan as he sucked the tip into his mouth, the suction of his mouth sending pulse after pulse of heat surging from her nipple to the tight, furiously throbbing bud of her clit.
Each draw of his mouth pulled at the tip with demanding pressure, increasing each sensation until she felt a swirl of overriding, overwhelming ecstasy building in her womb.
She wanted him. Every touch. Every fierce stroke she could get.
Rolling her hips and stroking the hardened bud of her clitoris against his jeans-covered thigh only increased the pleasure. It hurled her down a brilliant white-hot path to the complete sensual destruction that was only a touch away.
Just the right touch.
Just the right pressure and the climactic explosion would destroy any peace she thought she had in her life.
It was the most pleasure she had known in her life. But she knew there was more. She could sense it; she could almost feel it.
“I’m going to end up taking you here against this tree if we don’t stop this.” His voice was ragged, a gravelly sound of hunger that clenched her womb and amped the power of each sensation charging through her.
“Okay.” Yeah, like she was going to object.
A serrated chuckle inflamed her already overly aroused senses.
“It might not be a good idea.” His lips stroked over the curve of her breast as she arched again, trying to get closer, to push her nipple back into his mouth.
“Stop thinking,” she demanded. “I don’t want to think.”
But they had to think.
Logan laid his head against the curve of her breast as he fought to draw in a breath that wasn’t filled with her scent.
This close to her, it was impossible. There was no way to breathe without pulling in the sweet scent of her, or tasting the silk of her flesh.
And he had to think. He had to protect her, protect this. This pleasure he had never imagined could actually exist for him. In his wildest imaginings he had never believed there was a woman he would actually want more than he wanted his own sanity.
Or that there was a woman he would place above his own or his family’s protection.
Before he could allow himself to be drawn further into the heat and the wild promise she represented, Logan forced himself back.
“What are you doing?” Disappointment filled her voice as he set her on her feet, filled her gaze as her lashes lifted so she could stare up at him.
“If we keep this up, I won’t stop with a few kisses beneath this tree,” he warned her as he stared down at her intently, fighting himself more than he was anything else.
“I said okay,” she reminded him fiercely.
“And I don’t want a lover, Skye.” He forced the words past his lips, forced himself to stare into her eyes as he said what had to be said. “This won’t begin a relationship for us; you have to understand that.”
She frowned up at him then. “I’m not asking for a wedding ring, Logan,” she said impatiently.
“Are you asking for just one night of hot, nasty sex?” he asked her then. “Because that’s all I have to offer. One night and then never again. No matter how much both of us might want more. Because when morning comes, that’s it. No more.”
She stared back at him in disbelief. “You limit the amount of time you spend with a lover?”
“One night,” he repeated, hating himself, hating the hunger eating at him, assuring him he was a class A bastard.
“One night, huh?” She stepped away from the tree, facing him.
They were still enveloped by the darkness beneath the tree, sheltered from prying eyes and the possibility of an enemy learning more of his actions than was safe for either him or Skye.
He had to clench his hands to keep from jerking her back to him, to keep from throwing them both back into that whirlwind of pleasure and the race to ecstasy.
A siren’s smile tipped her lips again and aroused every self-preservation instinct he possessed that wasn’t already busy keeping his ass alive.
“And you think one night with me would be enough?”
His brow arched as he longed to join in the play, the teasing, sensual challenge.
“I’d make it enough.”
Her laughter was as soft and sensual as the sultry summer night surrounding them.
“One night with me would never be enough, Logan,” she promised him, surprised him. “Because whatever just exploded between us would rock both our worlds to the point that staying away from each other would be like sawing off a limb.”
God, no woman should be so fucking intuitive.
He already knew that. Knew it, and feared it to the depths of his soul.
Adjusting the top of her gown to cover the full, firm globes of her breasts and smoothing her hands down her sides, she looked at him again from the corners of her eyes. “You started this, and you’ve opened a door I don’t think you can close. But you keep lying to yourself if you want to. Because I don’t think it’s something you can deny yourself now. We both want it until we’re ready to beg. But I’m willing to wait until you’ve gotten a clue and figured out how little you actually want a one-night stand.”
He already knew. That was the problem.
Watching her step from beneath the branches of the tree, Logan slowly followed, careful to keep her slight, delicate body sheltered from any prying eyes that might be watching.
“Let me know when you’ve come to your senses.” Turning back to him, her gaze met his, and Logan only barely controlled the flinch.
Now, in the sparse light that fell from the patio, he could see the living, breathing evidence of pure hunger.
It raged in her eyes, at odds with the calm tone of her voice and careful restraint in her body. “And if you wait too long, you may lose far more than you even imagine.”
And he had a damned good imagination. “Conceited, Skye?” he asked, forcing the mockery into his tone, because he knew it wasn’t conceit. It was pure confidence based on the explosive power of the pleasure that had surged between them.
“Confident,” she echoed his thoughts. “Because I know I’ve never felt pleasure like I just felt in your arms. And I know for a fact you haven’t either.”
His lips quirked knowingly, though that impression of knowing was the biggest lie of his life. “Sure of that, are you?”
A light laugh drifted through the night. “As sure as I’ve ever been of anything.”
Turning on her heel, she moved quickly through the side yard from his patio to her own.
“And take care of that damned puppy,” she called from the door. “I don’t want to have to listen to her cry like that every night. It’s pitiful, Logan.”
His gaze swung to the animal.
Barely more than a handful of fluff and bones, the tiny pup huddled at the patio door, a soft whine filling the night. And breaking Logan’s heart.
Turning away from her tore a piece of his soul out, just as another piece had been ripped from him when he’d been forced to let her go.
The pup was too tiny, too delicate, to defend herself. The little scrap would be too friendly and too eager to please to ever realize the danger she could be in if hell came calling.
He would give her food and water. He’d have his cousin Crowe put a small shelter at the corner of the patio for her and Logan promised himself he would attempt to get the neighbors to take her.
He’d find her a home, because keeping her meant possibly watching her die.
Just as he had before.
Corbin County was his curse, Logan decided. Because it wasn’t just a damned pup he was risking, he was risking the most vital, passionate woman he had ever met.
He never, ever took a lover from Corbin County, not even for one night. And he’d nearly broken that rule with Skye.
And he knew, knew to the soles of his feet, that the killer that stalked them twelve years before was still out there, waiting, watching, and still, he’d touched her. Still he’d let the hunger for her rage inside him.
A monster waited to strike, to torture and kill any woman Logan and his cousins gave so much as an appearance of caring for. He raped and maimed them, found pleasure in watching them die, and now Logan was risking the only woman who had ever made his heart race out of control.
The only woman who had touched him, and made him ready for just one more caress.
Because of that woman, Logan was standing in the darkness, staring around him, and wondering how he could have her and keep her safe from the monster determined to find and kill any woman he could care for. To keep her from attracting the attention of the demon that haunted them.
The demon he and his cousins were determined to find and destroy first.
Copyright © 2012 by Lora Leigh
Lora Leigh can often be found daydreaming and plotting and planning with the varied characters that fill her imagination when she isn’t planning her flower gardens, watching the horses romp outside her home, or spending time with the family and pets she fills her life with. Writing is her passion, her peace, and her lifeline. She hopes you enjoy the stories, and that you visit her website www.loraleigh.com often for updates and news on characters and upcoming books.