by Linsey Lanier
What the hell are you doing, Jack? Rachel had to bite her lip to keep the words from flying out of her mouth. Everything had been going according to plan. She was to find Watson, lure him into a conversation if she could, tell him about her two Venezuelan housemaids and her philandering husband, then get the bastard to take them off her hands so the team could infiltrate his operation. Didn’t that cocky Soloski think she could handle it?
“Darling,” she managed to choke out. “What on earth is the matter?”
“Mr. Willoughby…Olivia,” Watson drawled in his silky tone. ”Is there a problem?”
Rachel caught Jack’s eye and watched him telegraph annoyance. She shot it right back at him. She was doing just fine in here. Or had been until he showed up.
Jack took an unsteady step into the room and waved an arm. “I know something’s going on in here,” he said with a slur. “Get your hands off my wif—.” He swung again the other way, missing Watson by a mile. “I mean, my wife.”
He was pretending to be drunk. God help them.
Watson chuckled and nodded toward the lust-inducing Olivia, shimmering in her golden gown, golden curls, golden curves. “By the looks of it, old man, you’ve been after mine.”
“Please, Jack.” Olivia grabbed at the swaying man as Jack swung again, did a pirouette and landed on the couch. Rachel made a note to ask him where he’d taken ballet lessons. “I’m afraid our guest has had too much Dom Perignon.” The golden creature smiled. “I thought he could lie down in here.”
Jack reached out for Olivia. “C’mon baby. Dance with me.”
The well-endowed bombshell leaned over him and Rachel watched Jack’s gaze move to her cleavage.
The sharp zing in her gut that felt a lot like jealousy shocked her. She almost broke her concentration, but managed to suppress it. This was her chance to close the deal. She lowered her voice and turned to Watson. “See what I mean, Frank? Do you see how he humiliates me? I can’t bear it.”
He patted her arm. “Don’t worry, my dear. I’ll take care of everything.”
“Thank you. Call me,” she whispered and pressed a card with her number into his hand. She cleared her throat and turned to Jack. “Sweetheart, it’s getting late. Let’s go home.”
“Aw, the party’s just starting.”
Rachel drew in an exasperated breath and walked over to him. “Home. Now.” She draped his arm over her shoulder and hoisted him up.
“Hey, you’re pretty strong for a girl.”
He breathed into her face and she grimaced as if his breath were stale with liquor. In truth it was delicious and sensual. Oh, Jack. Why are you making this so difficult? “Home, Jack.”
He smiled that heartbreaking grin of his. “Sure, honey. I’ll go home with you if you show me some more of your wrestling holds.”
Rachel rolled her eyes as she led Jack out the door.
Jack could barely keep from breaking his cover as he and Rachel hobbled down the long row of steps that made up the mansion’s majestic entrance, his arm still drunkenly draped around her neck, the music fading behind them. Why were they leaving the party? He was just making some headway with Golden Girl. He managed to move his mouth to Rachel’s ear. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Livingston?”
He felt her bare shoulders tense.
“Me? What was the big idea of barging in and interrupting me back there?”
“Interrupting? I was saving you.” As they negotiated the last steps, he struggled to lean on her without pressing down his full weight.
She growled openly. “For your information, I don’t need saving.”
“Lower your voice, Agent.” Jack took a quick survey of their surroundings. Thank God, they were alone.
“Don’t pull rank on me, Soloski.” She hissed at him between clenched teeth. “Don’t you think I can handle myself?”
“You’ve been in the Bureau less than ten months. I assumed you might be in trouble. I have to protect our asset.”
As they reached the bottom step, Rachel broke away from him, the smoke in her green eyes clearing to the color of sparkling emeralds. “Is that what I am? An asset?” Her words dripped with disdain. “Well, this asset wasn’t in trouble. She was following orders.”
“Orders? You were supposed to inquire about domestic help so we could get some incriminating intel on tape. Not get yourself hauled off to some private room where Watson could paw you.”
“Inquiring about domestic help was Plan A, Jack,” she sneered. “I was following Plan B.” She hugged herself tightly as she glanced at the curving drive where a long row of limos were parked. “Where’s our driver?”
“He wasn’t expecting us yet.”
With a grunt, she turned on her stilettos and swished down the sidewalk along the row of cars, fury in her lovely steps.
Jack folded his arms and watched her long tendrils bounce against the creamy skin of her back. What exactly was the color her hair? Chocolate brown and gold and red all at once. Delicious, he decided. Like the rest of her.
His mouth watered as he contemplated the way her black silk sheath shimmered from the sway of her perky backside, which was hurrying away from him. On the stairs, he’d caught a whiff of her scent—freesia—and was reminded of a night not so long ago in Aspen with a velvet soft bed in a luxury suite.
That was the night he’d told Rachel who he was. At least, what his real job was. He wasn’t ready to divulge his deeper secrets to her yet.
And now, she was an agent too, working beside him just as he’d decided she would when he first laid eyes on her at Mira Technologies. He’d worked with female agents before, slept with a few of them. But none had ever made his blood rush the way Rachel Livingston did. With her unquenchable spirit, her sassy moves and her too-tempting backside, she distracted him, made his head spin.
Not a good thing on a dangerous assignment.
Plan B, he chuckled to himself. The little lady must have misunderstood the instructions. He’d better catch up to her before she made another rookie mistake.
Rachel stomped down the tree-lined walkway where Lexuses and Lincolns gleamed under the lamplights, looking for the car they came in. The shock of her heels on the pavement throbbed all the way to her head. She’d never been so angry with another human being in all her life.
She remembered the outrageous crush she’d had on Soloski when she thought he was Jack Davenport, her boss at Mira Technologies. He’d never paid attention to her then. Never thought of her as more than some low-level assistant, though she’d actually been—and still was— a highly-skilled computer programmer.
When he told her he worked for the FBI, she’d thought all that condescension had just been part of his cover. After all, he’d tapped her to join the organization himself. He’d given her a recommendation so glowing, it made her blush when she hacked into his laptop and read it. So why was he treating her like some kind of ditz?
Oh, why should she care what Jack Soloski thought of her anyway? He wasn’t her boss. Tom was.
She felt a touch on her arm and stopped in her tracks.
“Plan B, Livingston?” Jack’s sexy smirk was infuriating. “What are you talking about?”
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “That’s right, Soloski. Plan B.” She put her hands on her hips. “Don’t play dumb with me. The plan to make Watson believe my husband is cheating on me with our two Venezuelan housemaids? The plan to get him to take them off my hands so we can get inside Watson’s operation?”
He chuckled. “And who are these two Venezuelan maids?”
She grunted. Why was he pretending not to know this? “The Vargas sisters, of course.”
Jack blinked, his gaze quizzical. “Lulu and Lucia Vargas?”
“That’s right, Jack. Congratulations.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets. His shock seemed genuine, even if, standing next to those fancy limos in that sharp tuxedo, he was more enticing than ever. “The Vargas sisters are two of the best agents in the Bureau. They’re top martial arts experts. They’ve got black belts in everything. Akido, Taekwondo, Muay Thai.”
She knew the two agents were good, but did he have to sound so thrilled about their achievements? What were the skills she’d been working on all these months? Chopped Kung Pao Chicken? Ugh. She wanted to kick herself for craving his praise so much. “C’mon, Soloski. Tom had to brief you about Plan B.”
He shook his head. “He didn’t.”
She studied him carefully, looking for any trace of deception. His eyes shone with innocence. Thoughtfully, he ran his tongue over his teeth, a habit Rachel found irresistibly masculine. And yet he seemed…vulnerable. “Why would Tom leave you out of the loop?”
“I don’t know.”
She frowned. Jack was too proud to admit ignorance unless it was the truth. She had to believe him, even if it made no sense.
He stared at her, gave her that crooked smile. “Did you really do all that back there? Watson bought your story about the Venezuelan housemaids?”
She lifted a shoulder. “I gave him the card Tom provided me with. Watson should contact us soon.”
His gorgeous face beamed with real admiration. “Great work.”
She felt herself flush. “Do you mean that?”
He nodded. “I’ve never seen a rookie get that close to a target first time out. I’m impressed.”
The last drop of anger drained out of her. She didn’t know what to say.
He ran a hand against his styled hair, looking genuinely bewildered. “I think I’m losing my touch.”
His blue eyes twinkled in the moonlight. Not with the usual teasing, but a deeper, more human emotion. “Yeah. Maybe I ought to sit this one out.”
Rachel’s mouth opened in surprise. “You want to quit this assignment?” Jack was her partner. He’d helped train her. She didn’t want to do this without him. She took a step toward him. “Why?”
“Because…” He moved so close to her she felt his breath on her face. He stared at her a long while, his jaw tensing, his blue eyes burning into her. All at once, he lowered his head and let his lips brush hers so softly she thought she must be hallucinating.
She sucked in her breath. Her mouth opened again, but no words came out.
When she didn’t pull away, he touched her arms, ran his fingers over her bare shoulders, making her skin tingle. He looked into her eyes, gauging her response. “Because of this.”
He pulled her close and sank his mouth into hers, his lips suddenly ferocious and hungry. She didn’t resist. Not even a little. Instead, her eyes fluttered shut and she gave in to the flurry of exhilaration rushing through her. She could hardly breath, barely think. She had no idea what to do.
Except kiss him back.
Of their own accord, her arms slipped around his powerful neck, her fingers digging into his thick hair. She opened to his relentless tongue, shivered as he teased the sides of her mouth. His mouth grew fierce, demanding, needy. She deepened their kiss. He matched her, his mouth ravaging as if they were waging some erotic tug of war.
She shuddered when his muscled body pressed against hers, moaned as her backside crushed into the limo behind them. Her mind whirled with the image of being sprawled over the hood.
Heady emotions engulfed her, burst below her navel, flowed through her body like a skyrocket, confused her more than anything she’d experienced tonight. Anything she’d experienced in her life.
She was supposed to be Tom’s girl, wasn’t she? They’d dated on and off ever since she’d come to Quantico. They’d settled into a comfortable routine. Had she been fooling herself all the while? Had she really been settling for second best?
Jack’s hand slipped cleverly along her silky dress, caressing her curves until he reached her breast. He ran a finger over the place where fabric met skin. Again she shuddered, wanting to drag him into the backseat of this limo and tear his clothes off. A very unprofessional act. Professional?
She got hold of herself.
With immense effort she pushed against his chest and struggled for breath. “We can’t do this. It isn’t right.”
“Of course it’s right, sweetheart.”
“How can you say that?” Her head was still spinning.
He tucked a finger beneath her chin, peered into her eyes with the intensity of a hypnotist. “I can say it because I…” He paused, his ice blue gaze almost watery.
Rachel’s heart hammered in her ears. Was he going to say those words? Did she dare let herself think it? Because I love you?
“You do sober up quickly. Don’t you, Willoughby?”
With a gasp, Rachel spun toward the voice.
Frank Watson stood not ten feet away wearing the same evil smirk she’d seen earlier this evening. She caught the gleam of a black, shiny object in his hand. Semi-automatic. Luger, if she remembered correctly from her Introduction to Firearms class. She’d aced the written exam, though her skills on the range could never match Jack’s, and especially not Tom’s. Watson eyed Rachel. “Odd way for a woman who’s just been cheated on to behave. I knew my background check must have missed something. Both of you came out too clean.”
Rachel’s heart sank. She hadn’t fooled Watson at all, had she?
“Marital problems, indeed.” His laugh was a cruel echo. “Perhaps I can offer you both some counseling.” He gestured with the gun. “If you would be so good as to step toward the back of the mansion? My men are waiting for us there.”
I’m holding my breath, are you? Good thing Chapter Four is tomorrow, Friday September 10.
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