Magnolia Island, South Carolina
The moon and sun were in the slow process of trading places as she looked down the darkened stretch of beach for the person who had insisted on meeting way out here before the crack of dawn. The Lemasters would have their ass if they caught them wandering away from the protected land around their island home, and not in a good way. She valued her friendship with their hosts and didn’t want to jeopardize being blackballed from future weekend parties on their private oasis. Maybe she shouldn’t have delivered that ultimatum, but she’d been so pissed, it had just slipped out. Cursing, she trudged forward, wondering if it was time to end this dalliance, to move on before it got any more involved or complicated. She was about to say the hell with it when tiny lights lit up the black expanse of water, near the shore. Movement she couldn’t decipher halted her in her tracks just as a sliver of burnt orange separated water from sky and a shiver of unease rippled down her spine. Before she could fully comprehend what the small lights illuminated, a sudden sound from behind her diverted her attention. Bad timing and poor judgment were responsible for the crushing blow to the back of her head that prevented her from turning and blasting the person who had kept her waiting. But Lynn Baker fell to her death in the wet sand never knowing that, or what she had witnessed in the last few seconds of her life.
Six hours earlier
Ryder Lemaster leaned back in the patio chair and took a long pull on his beer as he eyed his cousin, Logan, slipping into the maze across the lawn with Max and Clare. Tiki torches scattered here and there over the yard shed patches of light and worked to repel the irritating, summer insects native to the coast of South Carolina. He, his brother Hunter, and Logan had turned the family Victorian island mansion into a BDSM playground for themselves and their friends over five years ago, and Ryder had always enjoyed these weekend parties they invited just a handful of close friends to. Other than the Andersons, whom Logan was currently joining, Dan and Liz Mendoza was the only other committed couple.
Cocking his head, Ryder watched Chris as he bound Kim, a tall redhead with the prettiest breasts, to the cuffs dangling from a thick tree branch. Beads of water from her recent dip into the pool rolled down her slim body, and his cock stirred as he imagined following their path with his tongue. His body’s response pleased him as he hadn’t felt much enthusiasm for indulging the past twenty-four hours as he usually did at these get-togethers. This weekend, he and his twin turned thirty-five, with Logan passing his thirty-fifth just two months prior. He had been hoping his lack of interest wasn’t indicative of age, but then it hadn’t just been recently he’d been less inclined to throw these bashes. In fact, it began almost six months earlier.
A pair of dark eyes popped into Ryder’s head and drew a low curse from him. Why the hell did she come to mind every time he contemplated his lack of interest in the opposite sex? So he had made the mistake of giving in to the drunken urge to kiss that sassy mouth at the last Christmas party at the precinct. She wasn’t the only ash blonde, attractive woman he’d met over the years, and certainly didn’t have the only small boned, petite body type he preferred. Not since his wife, Patty had died of breast cancer before their first anniversary had he been so drawn to a woman, but Jada Michaels was the last person who should’ve captured his interest after all this time. Not only was she off limits due to them both being stationed at the same police precinct, but the little dynamo didn’t have a submissive bone in her body.
No, she wasn’t one he could, or should, dally with, and since that was all that interested him when it came to the delectable, fairer sex, he shoved her out of his mind as he had been doing for months now. The snap of Chris’s leather belt connecting with Kim’s soft flesh snagged Ryder’s attention again, and when Chris beckoned him over, he didn’t hesitate.
“Don’t you look pretty?” Ryder murmured when he joined the couple.
Reaching out, he cupped a small breast and flicked the berry red nipple as Chris swatted her ass again. The jerk of that long, lean body drew his other hand down to her pussy. Cupping the damp flesh between her legs, he pressed up, driving Kim to her toes as Chris drew a gasp with his next stroke. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Alex and Lynn entering the house through the playroom’s French doors, the blonde’s sated face picked up by the patio lights. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, which made him more determined to join in.
“Ryder, please, do something,” Kim pled on a long moan.
Ryder went to one knee in front of her. Using his thumbs, he spread her swollen labia, saying, “Well, since you asked so nicely,” before delving between the slick folds with his tongue. Her shriek echoed around the yard and drew chuckles from both men. Kim had always been a loud one. He licked her cream, savoring the wicked taste, then sank his teeth onto the hardened nub of her clit. This time, her cry, he was sure, could be heard inside the house. Chris kept up the torment on her ass as Ryder took her over, alternating between suckling and nipping the most tender part of a woman’s anatomy. She shoved her hips into his marauding mouth, trying with desperate mewls to grind her pussy against his lips.
Reaching behind her, Ryder pinched a warm buttock hard enough to leave a small bruise. That seemed to get her attention as she quit trying to demand more and settled down to wait until he was ready to deliver the final coup de grâce, a perfect submissive response. Now she’d given him what he wanted, he returned the favor. Going deep with fingers and tongue, he teased, stroked and nipped along sensitive nerve endings until he got to her clit again and suckled the small piece of flesh with strong, orgasm releasing pulls.
“Ryder deserves to join us after delivering that treat,” Chris told Kim as he released her from the wrist restraints and she fell against him. His blue eyes gleamed as he pushed her to her knees in the grass. He didn’t wait for Ryder to reply as he knelt behind her upraised hips and sank his sheathed cock into her glistening pussy.
Doggie style was a favorite position of Ryder’s and he had his cock in hand by the time he shifted around to Kim’s head and looked down at the pleasure reflected on her freckled, pretty face.
“My turn.” Kim licked her lips, her eyes devouring his hard erection. Who was he to turn down the lust she so blatantly allowed to show? Clasping his hands around her bright red head, he pushed past those enticing lips and felt the instant wet heat of her mouth engulfing him. God, she was good at giving head, he groaned as he fucked her mouth with a series of short, steady jabs. The constant movement of her tongue around his ridged length sent tingles rippling up and down his cock and sweat pooling at the base of his spine.
The slow wet glide just under the mushroom cap, stroking the small area that was the most sensitive spot on a man’s penis, damn near sent his eyes rolling back in his head. Swearing at his lack of control, Ryder felt his balls tighten and draw up as tiny pricks of pleasure spread up his spine and his nipples puckered much the same as hers.
“Brace yourself,” Ryder warned when Chris increased his pummeling thrusts into her pussy. Both men’s guttural groans came at the same time, and from the way Kim flushed and jerked between them, they’d brought her to the cusp again. With a few last thrusts, Ryder let go, loving the way she swallowed every drop of his ejaculation as he shut his eyes against the pleasure of his release.
As the pleasure dwindled from the big bang to a series of small pops, Jada’s pixie face filled with hurtful anger after he’d made an ass of himself following that ill-conceived kiss returned to haunt him. Why was that memory plaguing him tonight, and why the hell couldn’t he consign it, and her, to the same place he had all of his other sexual encounters since Patty’s death?
Ryder forcefully shoved it, and her, out of his head as he heard laughter coming from the maze and guessed that trio was on their way out and headed back inside also. After making sure Chris had Kim taken care of, he slipped back into the ballroom turned playroom, the dim interior lit not much more than the night shrouded lawn. Scanning the cavernous room, he noted Lynn had already hooked up with Hunter and when his brother beckoned him over, he sensed he was in for another ménage. If he had to fuck his brains out to rid himself of that memory, then he would, he vowed as he crossed the room toward the couple.
* * *
The peal of his phone woke Ryder from a deep sleep and he fumbled along the nightstand for the offending object without opening his eyes. He’d slipped from the warm cuddle of Lynn’s lush body snuggled between him and Hunter just a few hours ago, and retired to his room to spend the remainder of the night alone. He sure as hell wasn’t ready to face the morning yet after the ball draining excesses of the night before. He could still feel the snug clasp of Lynn’s ass and hear her soft cries of pleasure as he, Hunter and Logan drove her over the edge several times. The young blonde was always a delight to fuck. Enthusiastic and playful, she loved teasing just to get her ass swatted, even though she’d known them long enough to know they didn’t need a reason to redden any submissive woman’s buttocks.
“What?” he barked into the phone.
Hunter’s tense voice jarred him awake with his answer. “Meet me on the beach, by the boardwalk. I can’t find Lynn.”
Staring at the receiver in disbelief, Ryder jumped out of bed and jerked on shorts and a tee, the stress in his brother’s voice urging him to hurry. Hunter didn’t rattle easily. A few minutes later, he jogged barefoot across the early morning dewy grass then dashed down the boardwalk that wound through the woods until he spotted Hunter on the beach at the end.
“What do you mean, you can’t find her? She knows our rules about staying on the grounds, so she has to be close.” Anger and worry colored Ryder’s voice as he tried to get both emotions in check.
“Well, she’s not, so help me find her.”
It didn’t take them long. Less than fifteen minutes later, they were staring at Lynn’s lifeless body lying face down in the sand, the back of her head matted and clotted with black, dried blood. Ryder had seen more atrocities during his ten-year stint as a military cop while stationed in war-torn Afghanistan than a Dalmatian had spots, but he’d never become immune to the senseless deaths of innocents. Rage unlike anything he’d experienced before enveloped him until he had to fist his hands to keep from lashing out. Seeing how someone had coldly, cruelly snuffed out Lynn’s vivacious life and left her to bloat and burn under the sun as if she’d been no more important than the dead fish washed ashore, had him swearing vengeance.
Stepping away from his brother, Ryder pulled out his phone, setting the ball in motion for an investigation he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to be involved in. Since the only people on the island were his family, the two older veterans and friends of their Uncle Jim whom they considered family, and their closest friends, it was obvious one of those close friends had committed the vilest of betrayals against one of their own.
Two and a half months later
Ryder slid into the driver’s seat of his Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, tossing the plastic bag holding the threatening note onto the passenger seat. He, Hunter and Logan had discovered the note waiting for them on the seat of their boat as they prepared to leave Magnolia Island yesterday. Jim’s stricken face when they’d told him about this latest incident surrounding Lynn’s death ate at his conscience. His uncle hadn’t looked good lately, and they worried about his health. At forty-three, Jim had been a confirmed bachelor when he’d become their guardian following the deaths of both his brothers and their wives in a drunk driving accident. Ryder defied anyone finding fault with the way Jim hadn’t hesitated to take in three thirteen-year-old adolescents, angry and grieving at the hand fate had dealt them. Overnight, Jim had gone from a loving, doting uncle to a loving, strict parent, and when the three of them matured enough to see the sacrifice he had made for them, they’d been grateful to have him.
Jim, along with Daryle and Tim, two, disabled army buddies who resided on Magnolia, had all been affected by Lynn’s death, the anger and despondency reflected on their faces that morning mirroring what Ryder, Hunter and Logan had felt. The three of them had vowed to be there for Jim in his senior years, and had been keeping that promise, but of late, Lynn’s death consumed their time and with Jim spending more and more days out of town attending veteran’s retreats, they hadn’t been able to talk him into taking it easy. And now this.
Starting his Jeep, Ryder pulled out of the parking garage attached to the converted warehouse of loft apartments where he had lived the past few years. With Logan still residing in their family Charleston home with Jim, when Jim was in town, and Hunter taking up residence on Magnolia, they were scattered but close enough to get together often. Driving toward the precinct, he wondered if he, Hunter and Logan had tipped their hand to their friends about using the excuse of a party weekend to feel them out for motives for Lynn’s death.
They hadn’t planned on getting everyone together again so soon after Melanie’s scare two weeks ago, but when Max asked if he and his wife, Clare could come out, they’d taken advantage of another opportunity to probe for answers among the people they’d known and played with for years. Now, Hunter’s new girl, Chloe, had been threatened and they still hadn’t whittled down the group enough to pin their sights on one person. After this past weekend, Max and Chris were at the top of the list, but hell, Dan, Liz, Clare or Kim could’ve snuck away at any time and planted that note also. The only ones in the clear were the three who couldn’t make it this time, Alex, Susan and Molly. Of course, since Melanie overheard two distinct voices discussing the murder as an accident that couldn’t happen again, their absence didn’t mean one of them wasn’t privy to or in on the truth.
Chloe’s determination to look into her best friend’s murder after two months of waiting for the police investigation to come up with something, anything to go on, had followed right on the heels of Melanie’s insistence in butting in as well. Melanie’s friend and fellow journalist was shot and left for dead after agreeing to meet an informant who claimed to have information about the case, another victim of this cowardly perpetrator. Ryder would feel sorry for his brother and cousin’s plights with their women if he wasn’t so worried about the whispered conversation Melanie overheard in the woods and now this new threat.
Ryder entered the precinct ten minutes later, nodding good morning to cops he’d worked with for the past seven years, ever since he’d left the military and started a new career as a civilian police detective. Stopping at his desk, he winced when the stack of case files waiting to be solved reminded him of his busy case load. Before he delved into work though, he needed to drop the note off with Combs, the detective handling Lynn’s case. He wanted to stall, put off the risk of an up close and personal conversation with IT tech, Jada Michaels, who’d been granted a temporary transfer from IT to assist Detective Combs, an opportunity Ryder knew, she’d wanted for a long time.
Jada had been the newest tech in IT when Ryder had entered the department two years ago in need of an experienced computer guru to dig up anything and everything on a suspect. The first time she’d peered at him over her computer screen, those dark eyes that contrasted with her light hair widened in appreciation and packed a punch to his gut he’d never experienced from just a look before. At least, not that fast, nor that hard. Much to his dismay, it was a reaction that continued to repeat itself every time he saw her or heard that soft voice that could be sweet and nice or sharp with sarcasm. He had managed to maintain a friendly distance until last Christmas, and the memory of the night of the precinct’s holiday party was still burned into his mind.
“Fuck this,” Ryder muttered, forcing his feet to move down the hall while cursing himself for being a wimp. It was just a drunken kiss. He’d been telling himself that over and over, ever since he had given in to temptation and kissed the petite IT tech like there was no tomorrow. He’d never cared for scotch until he tasted it on her tongue. A sober, smart mouthed Jada had been hard enough to resist, but the cute, determined, inebriated dynamo impossible, especially after she’d entertained the entire bar with a hot show of girl on girl dirty dancing. Jada and her co-worker from IT had ended that dance with a lip lock that had affected every cock in that room before the two of them parted laughing.
His first mistake had been following her out to the parking lot, worried she would drive home drunk. The second had been letting his frustrated libido lower his guard so he caved when Jada had launched herself against him and planted that lush mouth against his. Her enthusiastic response to Ryder’s demanding mouth and roaming hands when he took over hadn’t helped him forget that lapse in judgment.
Since that night, Ryder had done his best to avoid running into the first woman to pique his interest since his wife’s death. He’d managed to be successful too, until she’d been granted that temporary transfer to homicide, his damn division. Not only were inner-departmental relationships frowned upon, but Jada Michaels didn’t have a submissive bone in that small, compact body, which made her unsuitable for him to even think about getting involved with.
Ed Combs’s usual, surly voice reached Ryder before he rounded the bend into the bullpen of officers under several homicide detectives’ command, his belittling remarks halting Ryder out of their sight.
“I’ll be gone two weeks, so you may as well return to IT until I get back,” Combs said. “I don’t want to come back from vacation to find you’ve screwed up my cases.”
Ryder would bet the sarcastic bite in Jada’s soft voice went unnoticed by her supervisor. He wasn’t the only one who disliked the bad tempered, older detective, and he hated the way Ed constantly demeaned Jada and refused to give her a chance to prove herself. You didn’t give her a chance either. Damn that sarcastic, reminding voice in his head that wouldn’t let it alone, he swore quietly. So what if he had requested his name not be included when he’d heard she put in for a temporary, rookie assignment to homicide at the beginning of the year. Just because he didn’t want to work side by side with her, have her within arm’s reach every day, looking at him with those big, dark eyes in a way that made his cock sit up and demand action, didn’t mean he didn’t think she deserved a chance to prove she’d make a good detective. She wouldn’t be the first cop to want to get out from behind a desk to work in the field. Ryder just didn’t want her working with him.
Irritated with his conflicting thoughts and Ed Comb’s treatment of Jada, Ryder held back a moment until the other detective left, not trusting he wouldn’t lay into him as he turned over his evidence. When he saw the last of Comb’s white head, he rounded the corner, caught the flushed, embarrassed anger staining Jada’s face when she saw him, and strolled up to her desk. Hitching a hip on the corner, he ignored the way his heart kicked in his chest when she scowled up at him.
“Combs is an ass.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Jada returned on a sour note. “Like, what can I do for you, detective?”
Yeah, he wasn’t her favorite person, but was it because of that drunken pass he took advantage of eight months ago, or because he had taken himself off the table to mentor her in homicide? Pulling the sealed note from his pocket, Ryder dangled it in front of Jada’s face. “The Baker case. We had a little get-together this weekend with some of the same people who were on the island when that murder went down and one of them left this for Lynn’s best friend, Chloe Markham. Somehow, I wasn’t inclined to turn it over to your supervisor before he left.”
“Well, as you must’ve heard, I’ve been sent back to IT for a few weeks, but I’ll drop it by the lab on my way. I’ve met Chloe and wouldn’t want to see her hurt by this. Thank you.” Jada took the evidence bag then dismissed him as she resumed putting her desk in order. That move didn’t sit well with Ryder and he clenched his jaw in annoyance over his own hypocrisy.
“You’re welcome.” Standing, he hesitated, reluctant to leave just yet, which also rubbed him wrong. “Look, Jada…” Ryder hesitated, then swore when she just raised one slim eyebrow and gazed at him as if she couldn’t care less about the internal struggle he had to deal with whenever he came near her. “Never mind. Catch you later.”
* * *
As soon as Detective Ryder Lemaster stalked off, Jada’s tense shoulders relaxed and she was able to breathe easier. No other man had ever gotten to her like he did, had ever affected her in such a heart-throbbing, panty-dampening, painful way. She’d wanted him from the first time he had come into the IT Department and approached her about doing a search on a suspect list. New to the job, that had been two years ago, and in the times their paths had crossed since, he always treated her with respect, but friendly indifference. But that hadn’t cooled her lust-filled fantasies or slowed down her growing obsession.
Even though women were welcome on the police force, it was still a man’s domain and it could be difficult to be taken seriously. Her fellow cops were good to work with, when some weren’t hitting on her and others dismissing her as fluff. Ryder did neither. When he wasn’t taking obvious pains to avoid working one on one with her, he treated her with polite respect and a protective air she doubted he was even aware of. There had been several times he’d come down a hall or entered the bull pen or lounge when someone was either flirting or ribbing her about something and his glower had sent them on their way without a word between them. If it hadn’t been for the way he would pivot and stomp off, she would’ve thought he was as drawn to her as she was to him.
Even though Jada’s lust had gone unnoticed and unrequited since they first met, that hadn’t stopped her from checking him out. She knew he’d been widowed over six years now, and rumors hinted Ryder hadn’t been seriously involved with anyone since. The gossip also tuned her into the sex parties he, his brother and cousin enjoyed hosting on their private, family owned island in the Narrows. That information had put her off for a while as kinky, dominant sex wasn’t her thing. She was likely the only woman who hadn’t read Fifty Shades, nor had any desire to do so.
That is, until last Christmas, when one simple kiss had piqued her interest and ignited her lust. The memory of that night, hazy as it was, still had the power to turn her warm and tingly in places that hadn’t been appeased since. Damn the man.
Eight months ago
“God, he’s hot.”
Jada reluctantly allowed her gaze to wander toward the bar and the detective she knew her friend and co-worker, Staci, had her eye on. Lounging with negligent ease against the shiny bar top that resembled the same deep mahogany as his thick, wavy hair, Ryder Lemaster was the picture of male perfection. “Yeah,” she sighed, “he is.”
The precinct’s Christmas party had moved to O’Reilly’s about an hour earlier for those who weren’t ready to call it a night and end the festivities just yet. The popular cop hangout, located just two blocks from the station, teemed with merrymaking co-workers, but Jada only wanted to party with one person, damn the man.
“You know, Jada, there are other guys interested in you, if you’d just take the time to look,” Staci admonished her.
But they weren’t Ryder. Jada kept that comment to herself, not wanting to put a damper on the evening even though she was of a mind to call it a night before she had to watch the man she’d been obsessed with slip out with someone else to celebrate the holiday with. It wasn’t that she didn’t date, or occasionally invite someone to stay the night. She did, and she enjoyed herself. But ever since she’d first met the six-foot two detective, whose piercing, moss green gaze never failed to curl her toes, she’d tended to compare every man with him, even to the point of pretending it was his hard body she had herself wrapped around and getting all sweaty with.
Taking a sip of her scotch, Jada finally looked away from Ryder and back at Staci. “I just went out last weekend. I told you about that.”
“Only that he was okay, like you always do. You may as well give it up. Not only is fraternizing with fellow cops in your same precinct frowned upon, that particular cop’s never been known to date anyone on the force.”
“Well, I don’t want to date him, I just want to fuck him.”
Staci sputtered on a laugh which made Jada giggle. Loud music drowned out the conversations circling around the crowded bar, but they were seated at a corner table close enough to the pool table to listen to the constant clacking of balls rolling together before dropping with a thud into a corner pocket. Jada loved shooting pool, and was damn good at the game, but too much alcohol and irritation over the obvious way Ryder looked around the room at everyone but her, kept her pouting in the corner.
“I think I’ll head home,” she stated, all of a sudden wanting nothing more than the peace and quiet of her small apartment. Sitting around pining for something, someone, Jada knew she would never have was getting old and it was time she took Staci’s advice and gave up on this ridiculous infatuation.
“Wait, I’m the DD, remember? I just want to dance once before we head out. Come on.” Staci stood and hauled Jada up then dragged her onto the small, crowded dance floor. “Let’s give them something to talk about at work next week.”
Laughing, Jada caught onto her enthusiasm to let their hair down. What the hell, she thought as she gyrated to the fast beat. With alcohol clouding her senses and loosening her limbs, she swung around Staci, bumped hips with hers and even swayed her butt against her friend’s pelvis, the girl on girl dirty dancing getting a lot of attention. Twirling in a fast circle, Jada flipped her hair back with a toss of her head, her eyes connecting with Ryder’s scowling, green glare where he stood with arms crossed at the edge of the dance floor. A secret little thrill swept her inebriated senses as she pretended her dancing bothered him the way just looking at him affected her.
Resentment over the way Ryder could make her bat shit crazy one minute and melt with lust the next all while remaining calm, cool and unaffected swept aside common sense and impelled her to become reckless. Wanting to give him something to really scowl about, Jada spun and came into frontal contact with Staci. She’d intended to just up the dirty dancing moves with a few pelvis to pelvis grinds, but decided a dose of shock therapy was needed.
Leaning forward, she whispered against Staci’s mouth, “Let’s give him something to sleep on, shall we?” Jada knew Staci would catch on quick, and proved it when Staci’s grin split her lips right before they met Jada’s mouth. With her hands on Staci’s hips and Staci’s on her shoulders, they rubbed their bodies together as their lips clung in a wet, carnal kiss that drew catcalls from the dancers around them.
Jada didn’t let shyness or inexperience stop her from deepening the kiss and she wasn’t disappointed when Staci opened her mouth and joined in the dueling dance of their tongues. She was dying to peek at Ryder again and check his reaction, but didn’t dare. They pulled apart with a laugh scant seconds later, their heated kiss lasting just long enough to garner attention, and, she hoped, needled Ryder as much as his studious avoidance of her bothered her.
“Shit, I gotta go,” Jada groaned when the room spun as they wound their way off the dance floor to the good-natured ribbing of friends and co-workers. She didn’t seek out Ryder again, didn’t want to ruin the burst of fun she’d just had by seeing that thundercloud expression aimed her way again. “I’ll meet you outside. Maybe the cooler air will clear up my head.”
“Okay. Here are my keys. Give me a few to use the restroom and I’ll meet you at my car.”
Jada waved good-bye to those who called out as she slipped through the crowd and out the door. The December temperature had already dropped to the forties and the blast of cold air sent shivers through her over-heated body. Stumbling across the parking lot, she only made it halfway to Staci’s car when a firm hand gripped her arm and swung her about. The keys she brought up to gouge the person who startled the crap out of her were snatched from her hand with a curse.
“Give me those. You’re in no condition to drive.”
Ryder’s deep, exasperated tone reached down deep and stroked Jada from the inside out, an odd but pleasant reaction she never failed to get when hearing it. It pissed her off as much tonight as it had every other time. Jerking her arm did nothing to loosen his gentle, but firm grip when she demanded, “Let go of me, detective. I’m not your responsibility.”
The dim lighting in the lot was enough for Jada to make out the tight clench of his jaw and some indefinable emotion swirling in the moss green depths of his eyes. She wondered if her dance with Staci had sent him chasing after her this time or if he really was concerned about her safety. With him, she never knew what he was thinking.
“Someone needs to take you in hand. This is my vehicle. Get in and I’ll drive you home.”
Something snapped in Jada at that autocratic demand and his assumption she would jump if he snapped his fingers, and rubbed her the wrong way, probably more so because he usually went out of his way to avoid her. With her brain fuzzy from alcohol and still riding high on the adrenaline from her and Staci’s dirty dancing audacity, she discovered the nerve to back Ryder against his jeep and press her body against his. Taking advantage of his surprise, she went on her toes and did what she’d been dying to do since first setting eyes on him.
The second Jada’s mouth touched his, arms like bands of steel came around her waist and hiked her much smaller frame tighter against all those rippling muscles. Her low moan mingled with Ryder’s deep groan when she opened for the invasion of his tongue. She struggled in his hold, not to get away, but to be the one who took him over. When she discovered her inability to budge, her lower body swelled with heat and moisture and her nipples puckered into painful nubs, the unexpected response to his total control shocking her into stillness.
Succumbing to the pleasure of finally getting what she wanted, Jada melted against Ryder, savored the taste of whiskey on his tongue, the rough movement of those sensuous lips over hers and the distinctive press of the hard bulge between his legs. She had meant to torment him, not the other way around. But when had her desires ever come into play where he was concerned? A mortifying whimper slid past her guard when he cupped her skull in one large hand and her butt with the other, angling his head to take the kiss deeper, turn it even more carnal as he all but devoured her.
Just as suddenly as she’d startled him by initiating this, Ryder ended it by pulling back without warning and dropping his hands as if burned. Jada’s breath came in gasps as she stared up at his chiseled face in anger and disbelief.
“That shouldn’t have happened, I’m sorry.”
Jada wanted to tell him what he could do with that stiff, grudgingly given apology, but the sound of voices was another dash of cold water on this strange encounter. Glancing around the lot, she grew flustered as a few people stared their way. First, her lesbian dance and kiss show and now caught making out with Detective Lemaster in the parking lot. Tongues would be wagging come Monday and she had no one to blame but herself.
“There’s Staci. I’m riding with her.” Before she could make a bigger fool of herself, Jada turned her back on Ryder, her mouth numb and tingling from the hard possession of his. She could still taste the hint of alcohol on his tongue, feel his hot breath taking over hers. He made it impossible to think straight around him. Her heart squeezed as she walked away without looking back, wondering if she would ever live this down with the other cops at the station.
Jada pushed back from the desk and stood with a sigh. If anything, that kiss had only increased her desire for the man. She didn’t care about the rumors of his kinky sexual preferences. Her body wanted what it wanted, and apparently, it wanted Ryder. She’d tried her best to forget that ill-conceived kiss, which had backfired on her since it only increased her lust, and she had managed to do a good job until she’d been granted the transfer request to Homicide. The desire to try her hand at real police work for a change, actually get out on the streets to investigate instead of with her fingers on a keyboard, had been pulling at her for a while. Even knowing she’d be forced to see Ryder every day, Jada refused to let any man derail her career goals or even slow them down, no matter how wet her panties got for him.
Huffing in frustration, she picked up the evidence bag Ryder left. It hadn’t been easy these past two months working under Detective Combs and being in such close proximity to her obsession, but she had managed, at least until this morning. Going back to IT for two weeks wasn’t the end of her stint in Homicide, but it felt like it. Tossing the bagged note on top of the small box of her personal possessions, she put on a brave smile and appreciated the encouraging signs and comments from the other junior cops in the bull pen as she strode out.
Jada’s steps slowed when she reached the lab one floor down, her gaze on that note as she stalled outside the door. Technically, she was supposed to have all evidence, including lab reports, sent to Combs, but it would only take a day or two to get the results from this note. Who would know if she picked up that report? If it came back clean, no harm done, she’d just drop it by Combs’s desk. But if it yielded a clue, or a lead, she could look into on her own? It could afford her the only chance she might have to actually get involved in a case and make a difference, something she knew she wouldn’t get under Combs.
If Combs found out, that would end her career in Homicide before it began, but Jada wouldn’t let that stop her. Pushing open the lab door, she entered before she could change her mind.