August 2nd, 2012 - Excerpt Four - Day Four
We continue our Special Edition Romance Previews featuring MATERIAL WITNESS by L.A. Mondello. We hope you enjoy this week's feature.
Let's set the stage for today's excerpt:
Suddenly out of danger, Jake and Cassie have a moment to explore how they really feel about each other.
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Who does she trust when she’s living the real life horror of one of her crime novels…
Bestselling crime novelist, Cassie Alvarez, aka Cassie Lang, had murder on her mind when she walked into Rory's Bar under dressed and under cover to research her latest crime novel. Researching the cool, blue-eyed and dashingly handsome man at the end of the bar stirred her senses more than she wanted to admit. But was this man of leather armor all he appeared to be?
Playing White Knight to an innocent wasn't how Detective Jake Santos planned to spend his time under cover. But there was no way "CJ" was what she claimed to be and that nagging tightness in Jake's chest told him he'd better take her home to safety and leave it at that. Then the barroom exploded with gunfire, leaving a trail of dead that includes a notorious Providence crime boss and an undercover FBI agent. When Cassie’s name is leaked to the media as the only witness to the grisly murders, Cassie insists she only trusts Jake to protect her.
The FBI wants their star witness happy and will do anything to make sure Cassie testifies. But it is clear to Jake that the shooter isn’t the only person who wants Cassie dead. Not knowing who to trust, he vows to protect Cassie at all cost despite the fact that guarding the beautiful novelist is a serious distraction.
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With her small body curled into his lap as if they were form-fitted for each other, the way a man and woman should be, he bent his head and covered her soft mouth with his. She was exquisitely perfect, sweet and tantalizing. His hand slid to the small of her back, stroking her, pressing her hard against him so he could feel more of her.
A soft moan bubbled up from her throat. He kissed her there and made a trail of tiny kisses along her neck eliciting the desired response. She smelled of baby powder and clean soap. A heady fragrance mixed in with the smoky scent of the fire.
Cassie clung to him, squirming in his lap and driving him mad. Framing his face with her hands, she pulled him back and kissed him hard, deepening their kiss, thrusting her tongue deep into his mouth with an explosion of passion. Her fingers dug into his neck with every thrust, every moan of pleasure.
Cassie was not the fragile woman he'd originally thought. She knew what she wanted and was bursting like a powerful inferno.
They parted much too soon for Jake's liking, breathlessly clinging to each other and trembling. As he gazed at her, he was reminded how utterly long it had been since he'd taken any form of pleasure with a woman. Cassie's lips were moist and swollen from their crushing kiss, her hair a wild mass that hung forward, framing her face. Her long black lashes fluttered open to reveal a well of desire he wanted to drown himself in.
Good God, he wanted to make love to her. He wanted to drink her in until there was nothing left. It was all he could think about. It would be easy to just pick her up and carry her into the bedroom until…
The awareness that he couldn't do that very thing slammed into him. He couldn't…
Jake sat straight up stiffly and eased Cassie off his lap. It didn't matter if she noticed the visible signs of his arousal. He needed the space. He needed even more to get the hell away from her.
If he dared to look at her, he’d forget all the reasons why he couldn’t make love to her and he’d come undone. Damn, how he wanted her.
“I shouldn't have done that.”
Cassie was still breathing deeply when she spoke. The heartbreaking confusion clouding her delicate features was unmistakable.
“Done what? Kiss me or pull away? If it's the last one we can rectify that easy enough.”
She reached for him again, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. He had to close his eyes, shut down his mind, to keep from pulling Cassie back into his arms.
Jake drew in as much air as his lungs could hold and held her back before attempting to speak.
“Kissing you is not a good idea.”
Her expression collapsed. “A few seconds and you've already had a change of heart?”
He didn't say anything. How could he tell her the truth? After the shooting five years ago, he'd thought sleeping with a woman was his salvation. Not consciously, of course. That had come out later after many sessions with the department shrink and a lot of soul searching on his part. He couldn’t even recall the faces and names of some of the women he’d been with during that period of time. He’d been reckless, testing his boundaries just to feel alive. He’d survived where other officers had not.
It nearly destroyed his peace of mind and quite literally could have destroyed his life. But he’d gotten over looking at woman as sexual objects and distanced himself from any romantic attachments so he could focus on getting himself back to the thing he needed. His job. Jake wasn’t about to destroy himself again just because the woman he was charged to protect was sexy as hell.
“Was it the kissing or the idea that wasn't good?” Cassie asked, her lower lip jutting out. But she valiantly fought to keep from showing her pain.
“I don't think I have to comment on how that kiss was. You were right there with me. It was…”
Mind blowing? The most incredibly intense experience he'd ever had with a woman, and it was just a kiss? If just kissing Cassie was enough to cause a complete meltdown inside him, he could only imagine how perfect making love to her would be.
Jake didn't have to imagine it. He knew. Making love to Cassie would be incredible. And that startled him to the core because despite his past, despite the aggressive need he’d felt after the shooting, being with Cassie would be making love, not just sex.
But he couldn't say that to her. If he did, he'd be reaching for her again, scooping her up into his arms. He’d be carrying her to that tiny bedroom and placing her down on that enormous bed. He'd be making love to her all night, and then some, until his body finally quit.
He wanted that as much as he wanted his next breath. But he couldn't tell her that.
“You don't have to worry about hurting my feelings,” she said softly, abruptly pushing up from the sofa.
Although they were right in front of the woodstove, the sudden distance from Cassie left him cold. He already ached to have her in his arms again.
She chuckled without any humor. “I never got high marks in the kissing department.”
Jake almost choked on his words. “Says who?” How could anyone think kissing Cassie was anything but a cosmic explosion?
She shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself. Dipping her head, she avoided his probing eyes.
“It doesn't matter.”
“Cassie, if any man ever told you something like that then he was nothing more than an idiot.”
Her dark eyes lifted to meet his straight on. The uncertainty in her expression made his chest squeeze so tight he couldn't breathe.
“Do you mean that?”
“My pulling away from you has nothing to do with not wanting you. In fact, that's all I've been able to think about.”
“Me, too,” she admitted, her lips stretching into a coy smile.
“But that's the problem. I can't protect you if…”
“We make love? That's what you were going to say, right? You want to make love with me just as much as I want it.”
Good Lord, he was in trouble. It didn't take much to know how Cassie felt, but hearing her say the words aloud was torture.
“Yes, Cassie. I want to make love to you,” he said, his voice just above a whisper. The need inside him kicked so strong and violently, he couldn't breathe. “But that’s not going to happen.”
He pulled himself up from the sofa and stood, standing on the opposite side of the throw rug on the floor. It was much too far away from where he wanted to be, but at the same time it was a safe enough distance to keep him from reaching out and touching Cassie. To give in to all that he wanted.
“Trust me. It's better this way,” he said, realizing as he said the words that he was trying to convince himself more than her that it was true.
“I don't happen to agree with you,” she said, lifting her chin just a bit as if to keep him from seeing the hurt from his rejection by showing her strength. “But I won't beg.”
“It's okay, Jake,” she said, cutting him off. “Really. I appreciate your honesty. I think it helps to keep a line drawn between us, if that's what you need. And you're right in one way. There's too much going on right now, and we're liable to get confused about how we really feel about each other.”
He nodded, the disappointment striking him like a kick in the stomach. Even worse because he'd been the one to deliver the pain.
(excerpt continued on Friday)