Blood and Roses

Chapter 4

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How ironic that Jake had encouraged Eric to spend time with Frank. He’d thought the Miller family was ideal—the yarn shop owner, the computer guru, and their two kids. Jake believed Frankie would be a good influence on his troubled, grieving brother. He had no idea that her dad had been a hacker, her mom a fence, and Frankie covered everything in between.

It’d broken her heart not to clue him in. And now the heist was weighing heavily on her mind. So many secrets between them. Too many.

They sat down for dinner and Jake sliced the pot roast with quick efficiency.

“How’s Eric doing?” she asked him, as she poured the wine.

“Good. Although I wish he’d go to graduate school or join the military. He’s a smart kid and he works hard when he’s motivated. When he’s not, he doesn’t apply himself.”

“Frankie’s got the same problem. Lots of potential, too little drive. I’m afraid he’s been a bad influence on your brother.”

Jake slid a slice of pot roast off the end of the carving knife and onto her plate. “Are you kidding? Before Frankie came along, Eric was in and out of trouble all the time—shoplifting, vandalism, boosting cars. Frankie changed all that.”

“Frankie just taught Eric to be smarter about it, so he didn’t get caught.”

She sighed at the skeptical look he shot her. Like many cops, Jake couldn’t believe anyone could pull the wool over his eyes, especially not his own brother. But there weren’t many cops who ran across top-shelf grifters like her parents, and both she and Frankie had learned their lessons well.

He took a drink of his wine and asked, “So you’re passing through on a job? You still doing investigative work for insurance companies?”

“Most of the time, yes.”

“What’s the job you’re on now?”

“Chasing down jewels taken during a heist, including a valuable tiara set with pink diamonds.”

“Oh?” His blue eyes flared with interest. “Big take?”

“Approximately forty million.”

He whistled. “How much do you get for the recovery?”

“Five percent.” She watched him do the math.

“Jesus, Ana. Up to two million?” He stared at her. “And you’ve been doing this a while.”

“Long enough. I guess it pays to think like a criminal.”

Jake looked down at his plate. They ate quietly for a while, each of them lost in private thoughts. Then he said, “You’re a good cook, sweetheart.”

“Thank you.” She smiled. “I took lessons after I got sick of eating take-out all the time.”

“Not having someone to share home-cooked meals with is a lonely life.” He took a bite and chewed, watching her thoughtfully. “Is the money why you never came back?”

She focused on cutting her meat. “Not the money, no.”

“Were you that unhappy here?”

“Jake.” Ana set her fork and knife down and met his gaze. “There are things you don’t know about me.”

“Bullshit. There’s nothing I don’t know about you, Anastasia. And nothing you don’t know about me.”

“Do you think someone’s a criminal whether they get caught or not?” She knew what his answer would be already. Jake had fully supported the local authorities when Eric had been caught committing a crime. Eric suffered the same punishments as anyone else in town would.

“Of course.”

“Well, then I’m a criminal, Jake. And a good, honest cop like you can’t spend his life with a woman who skates the line and occasionally falls over it.”

He picked up his wine and sat back then, studying her with those cool cop’s eyes. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but let me ask you this: What the hell do you expect me to do if you’re the only woman I’ll ever want? Be alone? You can’t be that cruel, Ana.”

“And you can’t compromise your principles for me. Eventually, it’ll ruin what we have.”

“What do we have? Two lonely, miserable lives? I’d love to fuckin’ ruin that.” He took a drink and held her gaze over the rim of his glass.

Her breath caught at the fiery look in his eyes.

“And by the way,” he went on, “not a news flash that PI’s don’t toe the line. Cops switch to private investigative work because they find the line confining. I know that. At the end of the day, you’re still doing the right thing.”

“What if I told you that I don’t care if the perps get caught? I just want the take. In fact, there are times when I’ve deliberately not pulled on a thread because I almost admire them for the guts it took to make the attempt and the brains to get away with it, if they do.” She sat back. “I may let these jewel thieves I’m chasing right now slip away, Jake, after I get the gems. What do you think about that? Think you can slide into bed at night with a woman who might be an accessory after the fact?”

His gaze narrowed. “Ana—”

“It doesn’t matter, Jake.” She hopped off the barstool and grabbed their plates. “I decided years ago that it’s a question you’re never going to have to answer.”

Ana took the dishes to the sink and willed herself to relax. There was no need for them to fight and she was determined that they wouldn’t, not when they had so little time together.

“You don’t get to make that decision by yourself, Anastasia,” Jake drawled dangerously, coming up behind her.

She gripped the edge of the counter, knowing where the warning note in his voice would lead. “You can’t change my mind, Jake.”

“No. Never was able to do that.” His hands wrapped around her wrists. “But I can remind you of what we’ve both been missing.”

Gently, he pulled her hands away from the counter and brought them behind her, pinning them to the small of her back. A moment later she felt the chill of steel as one handcuff clicked shut around her wrist, then another.

An instant calm settled over her.

He turned her around and cupped her face in his hands, his mouth sealing over hers. Ana gasped at the first press of his firm lips, opening herself to the slow, smooth glide of his tongue. He licked deep and slow, savoring her with an easy, unhurried eroticism. She moaned and wriggled against him, impatient and greedy.

His hands moved down to her throat, wrapping lightly around it. The feeling of being collared soothed her further.

“You with me, baby?” he asked softly, the pads of his thumbs stroking over her fluttering pulse.

“Yes.”

“The first time is gonna be quick. I’ve been waiting too long.”

Ana nodded, feeling the same way. She was so wet and swollen already, she was certain the slightest pressure on her clit would set her off.

Tenderly, as if she was fragile, he squeezed her breasts through the cotton of her baby doll, hefting them lightly to judge how heavy and tender they’d become. He caught her nipples between his thumb and forefingers, rolling them, tugging with just the perfect amount of pressure. Her eyes closed, her body lost to him.

Jake kissed her again, his tongue gliding over the curve of her lower lip. “I’ve missed you so damn much, Ana.”

“I want to touch you.”

“I know.” He hooked his fingers beneath her straps and pushed them off her shoulders. “If you’re good, I might let you.”

“Jake…” She gasped as the scalloped edge of her bodice dragged over her hardened nipples.

“So beautiful,” he breathed, stroking his thumbs over the furled tips. Lowering his head, he took one into the drenched heat of his mouth, swirling his tongue around it before his cheeks hallowed on a drawing pull.

She moaned, her head falling back as the sensation of his sucking echoed in the saturated flesh between her legs. The gentle tugging rippled through her, making her shiver in delight. When he paid the same service to her other nipple, her knees weakened and he caught her up, his arms banding around her waist to lift her. Holding her aloft, he ravished her swollen breasts, fluttering his tongue over the tight tips and scraping the edge of his teeth across them.

“Oh god, Jake…”

“Shh,” he murmured. “I’ll give you what you need, sweetheart. And I’ll keep giving it to you until you can’t imagine getting by for more than a few hours without my dick inside you.”

Jake carried her into the living room and set her down, turning her away from him. He urged her over the armrest of the leather couch with a gentle, but unyielding, grip at her nape. She folded, her buttocks thrust upward to accept the hard drives of his big, beautiful cock.

His hands stroked over her, rubbing down her sides and thighs in soothing circles. Cool air caressed her back as her gown was pushed up beneath the handcuffs. Her fingers flexed with the need to touch him in return, to feel the skin she knew became feverishly hot when he first pushed inside her.

“I love you, Anastasia,” Jake said gruffly, bending to press a kiss between her shoulder blades. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I won’t ever believe that we can’t make it work, because we always do when we’re together. You can’t deny that.”

“Jake, please…” The smell and feel of the leather stirred blazing memories from their past, reminding her of the needs only Jake could appease.

His thumbs slid beneath the elastic of her panties and pulled them over her hips and down her legs. His lips followed, skimming over the curve of her buttocks and suckling along the back of her thigh. She began to shake, her body overloaded by need and desire she hadn’t felt in far too long. When he sank into a crouch behind her, her breath caught with expectation.

“So pretty,” he murmured, his breath hot against the lips of her sex. “So soft and pink.”

Leaving her panties around her knees, Jake parted her with his thumbs and paused. She could feel his gaze on her, the heat and hunger almost tangible.

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