Fri
Feb 11 2011 7:00am

Black Jack - Excerpt

It was an anniversary of sorts. The anniversary of her death. Lilly Belle, code- named Night Hawk, maneuvered the streamlined Ninja into the dimly lit parking lot of the bar at which she had been ordered to meet her contact, and fought not to reflect on life and death. There lay a whole pit of problems best not poked at. There lay madness, and she preferred not to invite more madness into her life.

 

It wasn’t as though her former life had been perfect,she told herself. There had been problems and dangers there. But it had held all she had known of safety and love. She had known the rules, she had understood the intricacies of living within it. She had her mother, her brother, a niece and nephew, and once she had had a father who had loved her, who had protected her. Once, there had been more to life than survival. Parking, she lifted the customized, electronically enhanced helmet from her head and secured it to the chest rest of the bike before dismounting. She stared at the building, heard the laughter and music drifting from inside.

This was a hell of a place to celebrate such a momentous occasion as dying. Even more problematic was the man she was meeting.

Her weakness.

She smiled at the thought as she fluffed her dark hair around her face, attempting to restore a bit of body to it before entering the bar. She’d even used makeup to night.

Something she rarely did for a mission this simple. The last meeting with this man had culminated in a kiss, though. A kiss that had fried every synapse in her mind and tingled her nerve endings clear to the soles of her feet. It was a kiss that had fueled her fantasies and her imagination ever since.

The memory of that kiss was guaranteed to shred her self- control when she met with him once more. She knew it. She looked forward to it. And hoped that tonight would be the night. Thankfully, the information she had brought to America was something that could be taken care of quickly. The disk she carried in the inside pocket of her jacket contained information on several individuals who had been known Europe an associates of the person known as Warbucks, an American who had stolen and attempted to sell sensitive military weapons several weeks before.

The information would help develop a plan to wipe out the network Warbucks had begun creating that dealt in thefts, transportation, and sales of highly classified items.

Running her hands quickly down the snug leather that covered her hips, Lilly let a self- mocking smile touch her lips.

Travis Caine, code- named Black Jack, the man she was meeting, was a man of mystery. The identity he had taken with his induction into the Elite Ops was that of “facilitator,” a man who negotiated agreements between rival companies or organizations. He thought nothing of working opposite sides of the law, and he didn’t care if he spilled blood if need be.

The real Travis Caine had met an unfortunate and very secret demise, which had allowed this Travis to take the deceased man’s identity. The original Travis Caine had been a cesspool of depravity. But then the original Lilly Belle had been no angel either.

Drawing in a deep breath, Lilly walked through the parking lot toward the side entrance of Friendly’s Sports Bar. A weekend crowd filled the place nearly to capacity, with alcohol fueling the joviality and carefree laughter. It was one of those bars where friends met after work and on the weekends to drink, shoot pool, or just talk. Comfortable, almost homey, and just run- down enough to make it feel well loved.

She caught sight of Travis within seconds after she entered the bar. There, lounging in the shadows, was Black Jack. Dark blond hair fell over his brow and the hint of a beard and mustache shadowed the lower part of his face. Predatory brown eyes with a hint of green gleamed within his darkly tanned face, expressing well honed strength and pure arrogance. Brooding awareness filled his rough- hewn features, and for a second, just the barest second, her breath caught in her throat at the flicker of pure male arousal that gleamed in his gaze.

He didn’t bother to hide it. His gaze took in the leather over- the- knee boots, and in the second it lingered there she wished she had worn her high-heeled boots rather than the ones that allowed her easier movement. His gaze moved on to the leather pants, pausing for a breath of time at her thighs, before lifting again. An impish recklessness invaded her and had her unzipping the short leather riding jacket she wore to reveal the snug white shirt that clung to her breasts and rode high above the waistband of her pants.

Her nipples tightened, pressing against the material of the shirt and doing everything but waving for his attention. Not that he missed them. His eyes narrowed on them as his lips quirked with a hint of smile. She propped her hands on her hips, tilted her head, and arched her brow.

This was a fine way to treat a mission. She was certain her commander would have had something to say about her hormones clouding her judgment. But what the hell, she was already supposed to be dead, it wasn’t as though she were going to lose more than she already had. Unless she counted really dying.

Moving across the room, striding slow and easy, Lilly had to fight to remember that she was here for a mission rather than the good time she was dying for.

“You’re late.” His voice was like midnight sex. It rasped across her nerve endings and sent her hormones screaming in response.

Her nipples were spike hard and dying for more than her own touch. Her sex felt hot, swollen, her clit rubbing against the silk lining of the leather pants as she slid into the booth across from him.

“So report me,” she drawled as she sat back in the seat and reminded herself that she was here for much more than the man.

“What makes you think I haven’t already taken care of that?” He turned in the seat, one of his long legs moving under the table rather than stretched out on the bench seat as it had been.

“Then I have time to come up with an excuse.” She shrugged. “My boss is across the ocean, darling, not looking over my shoulder.”

His lips tightened, though the corners lifted as he shook his head and a chuckle left his lips.

“Lucky you,” he stated as his shoulders shifted beneath the leather jacket he wore. “When did you get in?”

“A few hours ago.” She was tired. She’d realized that as the plane landed. Tired of so much, and wondering if the price she had paid would ever feel worth the pain she endured.

“Hungry?” He nodded to the bar. “The chicken wings were exceptional.”

Lilly shook her head. She wasn’t hungry for food, she was hungry for touch. So hungry that at times it felt as though the need were gnawing a hole inside her soul. This man made that need burn brighter, hotter. As though he alone held the key to her arousal and her satisfaction. He stared around the bar for long moments before turning back to her.

His gaze was more intent now, darker.

“Are we going to keep pretending?” he finally asked. The question shocked her. She’d had the impression he was fighting the attraction harder than she was, that he would be the last one to give in. She hadn’t expected him to make this first move.

“Pretending’s safer,” she finally said, but the aching need couldn’t be disguised. She heard it herself, she knew he could hear it as well.

“It’s safer,” he agreed as he slid across the seat and rose to his feet. Leather pants as well, leather bomber jacket, a white

shirt beneath, the loosened buttons revealing the strong column of his neck. The jacket emphasized the lean strength of his chest and shoulders. His arms, she knew, were powerful, corded with muscle and warm, so very warm, when they wrapped around her.

This man had trained her when she had joined the Ops, covered her on missions and led her through the strange new world of the agency she had been a part of for the past six years. “Let’s go.” He held his hand out to her, the strong palm and fingers inviting, his expression intense and bordering on total male hunger.

It sent the strangest surge of adrenaline racing through her. Akin to fear, or danger, it raced to her heart, sent it pounding, then raked across her clit before tearing into her vagina and sending her juices flowing. He wasn’t waiting, and she was tired of waiting.

Good Lord. It should be criminal. She was certain,in her former world, it was against the rules. And hormones certainly had no place in the Elite Ops. Sexual need, emotions, hungers, they were all to be ignored, especially during a mission.

Lilly had managed to obey those rules, until it came to Travis Caine. Lifting her hand to him, she felt his fingers curl around hers, felt the heat of his skin, and had to restrain a shiver of pure reaction as she allowed him to help her to her feet. She hadn’t expected this, not from Black Jack, the need and the hunger reflected in his eyes, transferring to her in the heat of his palm against hers. It reminded her of another time, another man, a life that had existed before her “death.” It was the oddest sensation. As though that warmth were physically sinking inside her, rushing through her veins, caressing sensitive nerve endings. Breathless anticipation began rising inside her, chills racing up her arms despite the warmth of the bar and the leather she wore.

“What are you doing?” Staring up at him, suddenly wary of what she saw in his eyes, what she felt racing through her own body, she couldn’t help the question as it slipped past her lips.

“What do you want me to do, Belle?”

Belle. It wasn’t a name he used often, but each time he used it, the sound of it on his lips sent reaction racing through her. It never failed to make her wet.

What did she want him to do? “We don’t have enough time for what I want.” She wanted all of him. The touch, the taste, the dreams she had been forced to give up. His expression became heavier, more sensual. The green in his eyes seemed to brighten, to flicker. It made her wonder what color his eyes had been before the Elite Ops. Before he had “died.”

Blue, she thought. His eyes had been blue. The convergence of the green, the golden brown, and then the darker brown was so oddly aligned that it almost appeared as though the separate colors had broken into their own small groupings. The laser surgery that had been done to change his identity had come close to the color required, but Travis’s eyes were so much more than a simple hazel. “We’ll make time.” She followed him from the bar, her lips parted as she fought to breathe, to believe this was more than a dream, or a fantasy that she had lost herself within. As she left the bar she had to fight not to pinch herself to be certain she was definitely awake. She had been a member of the world’s social elite at one time. She was a trained Elite Ops agent now. She had killed. She had lied. But at the moment she felt like a teenager again, and she had managed to snare the most handsome, the most popular guy in the world.

Her hands would have shook if she hadn’t forced them to be still. Her knees felt weak, and the night, which had seemed too cool earlier, now felt steamy with sensuality as they stepped outside the building. Traffic surged along the street, anyone could be watching them. But all her senses knew, all they responded to now, was Travis.

“What did you drive?” she asked as she glanced around the parking lot, looking for the Harley he had ridden months before when they met in St. Louis.

“I had a cab drop me off.” He paused, glancing back at her, his expression heavy with sensuality. “We’ll use your cycle.”

Her cycle.

She went as he drew her to it, checked it quickly for tampering before swinging his leg over the seat and pulling her to him.

Lilly went willingly, straddling the narrow pad behind Travis and leaning forward, her breasts pressing against his back as the cycle rumbled to life. Travis felt the gentle warm weight of the woman as he made his way through Hagerstown’s streets to the

hotel he’d checked into earlier.

What the hell was he doing? No doubt thinking with his dick rather than his brain. But at the moment, his dick was holding sway and there wasn’t a damned thing Travis could do about it. He knew better than this. He’d known the treachery of one woman. Hadn’t that been enough? But this woman, she had slipped past his guard years ago as he had trained her. She had covered his back, wormed her way into his trust, and through it all, he had ached for her.

She was the epitome of every dream he’d ever had, even at a time when he’d had no business dreaming of another woman. She had even overshadowed the dream of innocence and laughter that had fi lled him before his “death.”

His marriage had been hell. His life as Lord Xavier Travis Dermont had been a double life. As an agent for MI6, and a husband fighting to keep a rein on his willful, cheating wife, he’d learned that the job was a hell of a lot more dependable.

Until Lilly.

Lilly made him wonder what he had been missing. She made him wonder what he had thrown away when he had left that life so easily after his wife had betrayed him and her country.

Pulling into the back parking lot of the Homewood Suites, Travis checked the area carefully before pulling the cycle into the darkened corner at the edge of the lot.

He’d pay for this, he knew. Somewhere, sometime, this one night would rise up and bite him in the ass. And still, he couldn’t help but follow through. His wife was a part of the past, a life that no longer existed. He was no longer Lord Xavier Travis Dermont.

He was Travis Caine, a facilitator between disagreeing parties, criminal or legal.

He was a man with an unsavory past now. A man that others feared. And he had no life to offer Lilly. They had nothing to offer each other, but this night. As the motor cut off, Travis let his hands grip hers where they pressed against his abs, her small fi ngers

warm, trembling before helping her dismount behind him. He had every intention of getting her to the room, getting her into a bed before he touched her. He knew how shaky his own self- control was. As he turned to her, though, and stared into those brilliant green eyes, suddenly nothing mattered but tasting her again, feeling the heat and the warmth of her fragile body.

One hand wrapped around her neck while he pulled her to him with the other. Still straddling the cycle, he had no trouble lifting her to him, guiding her leg over his, and settling her into his body as his lips took hers and he lost himself in her kiss.

His cock pressed into the junction of her thighs, the heated softness of it beneath the thin leather she wore made him think of sweet summer nights. Damn, she was going to be that good, that slick and wet for him. He knew it. He could sense it. Tangling the fingers of one hand into her hair, he held her in place as his lips and tongue ravished hers.

Lilly gave as good as she got. Her fingers speared into his hair, tight and desperate, and a mewling little moan tore from her lips as her tongue licked at his, stroking, caressing with desperate hunger.

He shouldn’t have started this out here. He should never have allowed himself to touch her yet, to taste her. He knew the taste of her. It had tormented him for months. He knew the feel of her, but not enough. Not yet. Jerking back from her, Travis did the only thing he could think of to keep from being arrested for lewd and indecent acts in a public place.

He lifted her from him, ignoring her protesting cry as he unwrapped one of her legs from around his waist and helped her back to her feet. Swinging his leg over the seat, he wrapped his arm around her waist and all but dragged her to the side entrance of the motel.

Sliding the key card through the security reader, he waited for the subtle click, then pushed the door open and led her to the elevator.

It took only minutes to reach the fourth floor and the room he’d rented for his stay there. He paused a moment to ensure that the hair he’d lain over the top of the reader was still there before he swiped the card, then pulled Lilly into the darkened room. There was no thinking after that. There was only the taste of her, the feel of her. Stripping her of the clothes that kept the satin softness of her body from him, then tearing his own from his body to allow his flesh to stroke against hers, and still, he couldn’t make it past the small sitting area to the bed that was only a few steps away.

He was dying for her. God help him, he couldn’t stand another moment away from her, so much as a second without their flesh touching. Never in his life had a woman affected him this way. Never had he known such a powerful hunger, such a driving need to touch, to taste, to forever imprint the feel of another’s fl esh inside his mind.

Until Lilly Belle.

Pulling his head back to string kisses down her neck, he was surprised as she began stringing them down his chest instead. Held in a vise of pure sensual sensation, Travis could only feel, could only watch as her lips and tongue painted a trail of agonizing plea sure to the thick, heavy erection that pulsed in need. Never had he seen anything so beautiful as the sight of her going to her knees in front of him, naked, her breasts swollen, her nipples hard. Her fingers attempted to wrap around the width of his cock, but they couldn’t quite make it. That didn’t stop her from leaning forward and licking a white- hot trail of sensation over the sensitive

crest.

“You don’t have to do this,” he groaned, but damn, he wanted her to.

A siren’s smile curved her lips before they parted over the wide head of his cock, and slowly, tantalizingly, she sucked it into the silken heat of her mouth. Travis’s fingers bunched in the heavy strands of her hair. His head tilted back as the muscles in his body

tightened, bulged with the effort to survive the extremity of the pleasure now washing through him.

The heated dampness swirled around the head of his cock, seared over nerve endings so sensitive now that each draw of her mouth, each lash of her tongue, was an agony of pleasure. Bending his head once again, he forced his eyes open, forced himself to watch the most erotic sight he had ever seen. It was enough to make his balls clench in agony. The sight of her lips parted over his cock, taking him in, sucking him with reckless greed as the fi ngers of one hand stroked the shaft, and the other, sweet heaven, the fi ngers of her other hand curled around his balls, her nails scraping the fl esh as he felt her moan vibrating around the too-sensitive head.

Each draw of her mouth drove him closer to the breaking point. Each lick of her tongue had his nerve endings screaming with need.

Until he couldn’t take any more. Gripping her shoulders, he drew her to her feet despite her protests, a tight grimace contorting his features as the hard flesh slipped free of the hot ecstasy surrounding it.

He’d wanted so much more than he would be able to give her this first time. He wanted to touch her for hours, stroke her, taste her. He’d wanted to gorge himself on her and pray it would finally sate the hunger tormenting him.

Instead, he could do nothing but lift her to him, turn, and sit her on the desk beside them. He reached down, grabbed his pants,

fi shed a condom out of his pocket, sheathed himself, and stepped between her thighs. As her legs wrapped around his hips he stared into the wild green of her eyes, and knew he would never have enough.

“I have to,” he groaned as he pressed the head of his cock against the snug, heated entrance of her slick pussy.

The slick dampness coated his fl esh as he pressed against her, easing with agonizing slowness inside the tight entrance.

“I waited.” Her whisper tore into his soul. “Tell me it’s not a dream.” What she did to him was probably illegal. It might

very well get him killed. “It’s a dream.” He had to clench his teeth against the rapture enclosing his cock as her sweet pussy began to suck him inside. “Tell yourself that, Belle. Believe it. It’s just a dream.”

It had to be a dream, because anything else at this moment could destroy them. He heard the hitch of her voice and couldn’t bear her pain, her regret. He felt her hands tighten on his shoulders and knew that he couldn’t allow the night to be anything more than that. Just a dream. Working against the ultrasnug grip of the sweet, heated muscles gripping his cock, Travis began to press deeper inside her, to take more of her. His muscles tightened as his entire body seemed to spasm with the pleasure that raked through him, burning through his body and imprinting her into areas of his soul that he knew he should never allow her into.

“I don’t want to wake up then.” The lost, lonely sound of her voice tore at his heart. “Don’t let me wake up, Travis. Let me sleep forever—” A cry ended the plea as Travis surged those last inches inside her, pushing past that fragile barrier. His cock throbbing in agony, pulsing with a white- hot demand for release as the heat of her pussy surrounded it, milked it, gripped it like the sweetest vise, and stole the last of the control he had possessed. Gripping a hip with one hand, Travis let his fingers curl around the fi rm weight of a breast as his head lowered. His hips moved, shifted, taking shallow thrusts that had her pussy tightening further as his lips covered the tight, velvety peak of a nipple.

He sucked it inside, laved it with his tongue, and listened to her attempt to hold back her cries. She failed. He began thrusting inside her, then pulled back until just the crest of his cock remained before powering inside her once again only to draw back quickly, thrust in hard. It was a brutal, ecstatic cycle that had perspiration slickening both their bodies as he felt her begin to

tighten further.

Her pussy rippled around his dick, tightened, heated.

He felt as if his cock were fucking into a vise of pure hot silk covered with rich syrup. Her legs were tight around his hips as she moved with him, taking each thrust and returning it as she slowly lay back on the desk, forcing him to release the sweet taste of her nipple.

But it gave him so much more to touch. Stretched out before him, she stared up at him as he gripped her hips, and his gaze dropped to where he possessed her, his jaw tightening as he fought to hold back his release.

Sweet, soft, bare flesh hugged his cock, glistened with the heavy layer of her juices, and encased his flesh with every hard stroke that separated them. Her clit was swollen, a pale pink gem peeking out at him, tempting him until he lowered a hand from her hip to stroke the tiny pearl gently, quickly. Timing each caress to the strokes that were only gaining in speed, fucking her with all the desperate hunger riding inside him, Travis felt himself unraveling in the sheer plea sure of the act of taking her. His thumb moved faster over her clit, stroking it, her muted cries gaining in depth until he felt her coming around him. Her pussy became so tight it was agony stroking through the clenched muscles. They sucked at the heavy crest, flexed around the throbbing shaft, and between one heartbeat and the next, Travis felt her orgasm.

The power of it drew her body tight. It lifted her back from the desk, widened her eyes, and began to jerk through her body as pure ecstasy possessed her. Thrusting in harder, one stroke, two, Travis gave in to the tortured pleasure wrapping around his balls and buried himself to the hilt to fill her with the hard, steady blasts of release that poured from him.

His head fell back on his shoulders. His fucking knees were shaking, weakening. Sweat ran down his face in rivulets, adding to the sensations that racked through him, tore up his spine, and exploded in his brain with a rapture he knew he would never recover from.

Collapsing over her long minutes later, he fought to catch his breath, to get his bearings. His flesh was still buried inside her, he was still hard, and he wanted more.

He wanted to consume her. He wanted to possess her until nothing mattered but the sheer white- hot pleasure that surrounded them. “Don’t wake up,” he whispered as he felt her shudder against him once more. “Dream with me, Belle. Sweet Belle, just dream with me.”

Lilly felt sad as she drove to the warehouse that housed the headquarters of Elite Two. Returning to the life she lived now, rather than the life she had lived six years ago, or the one she wished she could live in Travis’s arms, was one of the hardest things she had ever done.

Lilly had given Travis the information she had been sent to deliver before leaving, but leaving had been nearly impossible. She had wanted to stay there, to linger,to hold onto the warmth of the man who had held her for as long as possible.

She’d had to make a choice. Stay with Travis or grab what little time she would have to see her family. She had walked away from her family. There was no changing that fact. Or rather, she had been forced to do so by whoever had killed her father and had attempted to kill her on a wintry night six years before.

She was dead to her family, but despite her difficult relationship with them when she was “alive,” they weren’t dead to her.

And really her mother had been the difficult one. Angelica Harrington was volatile and slightly neurotic, to say the least, Lilly thought with a tight smile.

Consumed with appearances, arrogant at every opportunity, and convinced her way was the only way, her mother had ruled the Harrington house hold with an iron fist. Her father and brother had shielded her from most of it, but no one could completely escape her mother’s often disapproving regard. Even so, Lilly loved her mother. As Jared used to say often, “She loves us, Lilly.” And then he would laugh. “Even if she has a funny way of showing it.”

Lilly smiled, thinking of her brother. They had been so close when they were younger, but they had drifted apart a bit after he had gone to law school, then graduated, married, and started a family of his own. Still, her heart clenched when she thought about how her brother and her mother must have felt to lose both her and her father at the same time.

Lilly’s smile faded as she remembered the night her father had died. She remembered walking into his study and seeing him lying there in his own blood. She remembered feeling like it had to be a nightmare, but she was unable to wake up. She had been about to run to her father and then nothing . . .

The next thing she knew she was waking up in a hospital, ban daged practically from head to toe, and in so much pain that she had wanted to die if she wasn’t dead already. She remembered hearing Jordan’s voice through the pain.

“Do you want to live, Lady Victoria, or die forever?”

The satellite phone on the seat beside her rang insistently, breaking her train of thought.

Glancing quickly at the display, Lilly couldn’t help but bite her lip in indecision. She had a feeling she knew what was coming.

Sighing loudly, she reached to her ear and activated the bluetooth. “I’m on my way, Raisa,” she told the other woman. “Yeah, like we’ll get to talk when you get here, bitch,” Raisa laughed good- naturedly. The other girl’s explicit language no longer fazed Lilly.

The exotic Afghani girl had taken to defying all the rules she had been raised to live by when she had watched her parents die before her eyes, then had “died” herself in a war that had destroyed every dream she had ever known, she had told Lilly.

“We’ll find time,” Lilly promised her.

“Like hell,” Raisa said. “I want the scoop now. Did you get you some? Because I swear if anyone ever needed a little sack time with a tall sexy man, then it’s you.” Lilly fl ushed, suddenly thankful that this conversation was on the phone rather than face to face. Raisa was terribly intuitive, and Lilly knew the other girl would see all the things she wanted to hide.

Things Lilly wanted to hide even from herself. “I had a mission to finish, not sack time to accomplish,”

Lilly informed her, fi ghting to keep her voice even. “Damn, Raisa, maybe you’re the one needing the sack time with a tall, dark and handsome.”

“Only if I have my knife at his throat and he’s tied to the bed,” Raisa snorted. “Anyway, we’re discussing your sack time, not mine.”

Striking and darkly beautiful, Raisa was the one agent Lilly considered least likely to go looking for a one- night stand. It wouldn’t surprise her in the slightest to learn that the other girl was a virgin.

She had “died” at age sixteen and the horror of the hours she had spent at the hands of the enemy still brought Raisa awake screaming from the nightmares.

“No sack time, Raisa,” Lilly lied. “Sorry.”

“Damn, you’re no fun.” Raisa sighed. “I miss those bad boys, Lilly. They make life interesting.”

And Elite One did make life fun. sometimes. Whenever she or the other girls were sent to gather information before Elite One went in to complete a mission, there was always a few days spent briefi ng them on what they had learned.

It was days spent going over the intel, eating pizza and sometimes a few practical jokes played by Wild Card or Heat Seeker. At times, there had been stolen moments of sensual teasing between Lilly and Travis. Raisa had walked in one of those times. She hadn’t stopped teasing Lilly since.

“I’m almost home,” Lilly fi nally told her. “Put on a pot of coffee and a snack of some sort. I’m starved.”

“Already working on it,” Raisa promised her. “And you’re right on time. We have several missions coming through. A few of them actually look interesting.”

None of them were interesting. They were all dangerous, they were all soul- tiring. “Be there in five then,” Lilly said.

“We’re watching for you. See you soon.” The line disconnected as Lilly reached up and deactived the link before pulling into the ware house district that housed Elite Two’s headquarters close to London’s docks. The long drive back to the ware house had passed quickly. Stepping from the SUV, Lilly paused and looked around. She took in the brick buildings that surrounded the Elite Two’s headquarters, the darkened windows, the almost sinister feel of the area, as heavy storm clouds rolled in overhead.

She suddenly felt on guard. She could almost swear she felt the scope of a sniper’s rifle aimed at her own head. Her commander had once stated that when you’d been the hunter long enough, you would know when you had become the prey. Suddenly, she definitely felt like prey.

Reaching inside the SUV, she pressed the activation on the steering wheel as she quickly bent and reached for the weapon lying on the passenger seat. It happened then. As she moved. As she heard her commander’s voice through the communications patch, the explosion of a gunshot came barely a second after agony engulfed her head. She felt, not for the first time, images of her life earing through her mind. This time, it wasn’t the memories of a child’s laughter, or a father’s voice that she heard.

This time, it was the voice of a lover who should never have been her lover. A man who had stolen her heart. His voice whispered in her ear, and the feel of his lips caressing her flesh almost washed through the pain as she felt her body fall. In that millisecond true regret wasn’t for the life she had lost before, but for the man she couldn’t return to. She saw eyes the color of gold and brown and flecked with green. She saw his face, felt him against her, and wished she had done things differently. As darkness closed around her, a single word slipped past her lips, rife with regret, pain, and an aching sense of loneliness.

“Travis.”

Excerpted from Black Jack by Lora Leigh.

Copyright © 2010 by Lora Leigh.

Published in March 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

This excerpt is reprinted courtesy of the She Loves Hot Reads website.

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