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In a small town, in a popular bar, beautiful women disappear. This could just be a coincidence, but private investigators, Carson, Matt and Nathalie don’t believe in them. So they go undercover.
However, when one of the missing women turns up dead, the trio is disturbed to learn the woman bore a striking resemblance to Nathalie; they increase their efforts. When Nathalie disappears from the same bar, Carson and Matt will do anything to find her.
*Contains explicit descriptions of sex, strong language, and descriptions of violence.*
Weeping, the kind which does its best to go unnoticed, filled the ominous silence. The constant whimper invaded the consciousness of the woman sprawled half on half off the bed. With effort the woman forced her heavy lids open and blinked in the frail darkness. She shifted, then toppled to the hard packed earth with a grunt.
Gripping her pounding head, she sat cross legged on the floor and rested her back against the wall. She rolled spit around her mouth in an effort to loosen her swollen tongue from the roof of her mouth. What the heck happened?
“Sean?” she croaked. Her voice was low and rusty from disuse. Had she passed out? They, she and her fiancé Sean, hadn’t even had that much to drink.
“No Sean here,” came a shaky singsong voice.
Had she passed out somewhere else? She shifted, moaning when her stomach shifted and slid like old grease on water. “This isn’t funny, Sean.” Finally she looked upward.
Not home. No where near home.
Weak sunlight filtered through the dingy mullioned glass block windows. From somewhere, a woman wept as if trying to do it in secret. The dirt floor was hard, and sported a colorful rug, a camped with a stingy mattress and rolled sleeping bag sat in one corner. While a toilet and shower, well more like a hose with a nozzle occupied the other corner. At least that section of the room had an actual floor. The faint stench of sewage gave her an idea of what was supposed to go on there.
Definitely not at home.
Rough gray cinder blocks formed the walls and thick wood and bars made up the front of the cell. A soft, soothing alto sang an old Cyndi Lauper song, something about girls having fun.
She was not having fun. She wanted to go home. She didn’t want to be in this dirty, filthy, hovel waiting for God knew what or even worse for whoever had grabbed her to come back and and do what? Her heart pounded at the question.
Valentine’s is always a busy time of year for PB and J Bakery.
With love fueling the need for sweet confections, there’s always room for romance. Even the anonymous gifts left for Penelope, by a secret admirer, are a welcome distraction from the chaos of chocolate and spongecake.
Penelope Bishop has an idea who’s sending the gifts, or at least she hopes it’s her sexy mystery man who stole a kiss on New Year’s Eve. The trouble is, she’s never seen him. Her only clues are dancing skills, a great pair of lips, and a sensual voice that haunts her dreams and every waking fantasy. All that pales when her assistant, Avery, inspires those same lustful thoughts.
Avery has loved Penelope from afar, but with her recent breakup, he doubts she’ll view him beyond the current role he has in her life...seeing eye person. He has one chance to woo a woman who defines her world through touch, scent, sound, and taste--think outside the dating box. When an old flame comes courting and makes Penelope an offer she just may accept, Avery has one last opportunity to make her his Valentine...he’ll have to bare all.
She swallowed. “You saw everything?”
He lifted her hand and placed her palm on his cheek. His head bobbed up and down, but there was more. His jaw was tight, and a corner of his mouth drooped. Is he upset on her behalf? The thought pricked her feminine pride, but at the same time, he had witnessed her humiliation.
She lowered her head.
“No, don’t do that. Keep your head up.” He placed a hand at her waist. “Besides, both of them stood there mortified at your declaration. The woman even slapped him and ran off through the crowd. He didn’t look too pleased at the turn of events.”
Excitement buzzed around them, and cheers rose. The crowd began counting down.
“He is absolutely not worth your time, and he didn’t appreciate you.”
A tear slipped beneath her lashes.
“I want you to know one thing, Penelope.”
“Not fair. I don’t even know your name.”
He hooked an arm around her waist and drew her against his solid frame. “All you need to know is this.” And as the crowd screamed “one” his mouth met hers.
She stood frozen, lost in a kiss that melted her soul, stirred her desire, and mended her heart. He coaxed her lips apart, his tongue darting along the seam. She curled her fingers in the lapels of his jacket as she opened for him, their tongues dueled for supremacy until she finally submitted.
Time stood still, the chorus of voices singing Auld Lang Syne faded as he cinched her tighter. His mouth never stopped moving on hers, becoming the very air she breathed. To stay in this stranger’s embrace would be just what she needed, but a dance and a kiss did not make a relationship. Still, she wanted the passion and acceptance he offered.
“Happy New Year,” he muttered against her lips.