As a professional hit man, Will Collier has more secrets than most. But on a sweltering Texas night, the lives he’s taken rank second place to the love he’d like to be making with a sensual Bohemian beauty. . .
Sabrina Walker is intimately familiar with the havoc Cupid can wreak. She’s determined that love will never seduce her again, until she meets Will Collier and discovers that some secrets are better when shared. . .
John Collier is a hit man who takes his work seriously. Some would say too seriously. He’s hell-bent on revenge until he gets sidetracked by an Irish-American mob princess with killer curves and a glib tongue. . .
Tish Page isn’t afraid to use a little good, old-fashioned blackmail to get what she wants. She’ll do anything to protect her family. And more importantly, she’ll do anything to keep John Collier in her bed and by her side. . .
“From sweet to spanky, Stuart’s gritty heroines sizzle across the page.” —-Lucinda Betts
“Love scenes are described in vivid detail and leave nothing to the imagination. You might want to have a fan handy.” —-Romantic Times
“Sexy, scrumptious, finger-lickin’ good!” —-Monica Jackson
“Hey! What’s your name?”
To his friends and family, he was Will; to everyone else, he was God, as in “Please God, don’t kill me.”
To his ex-girlfriend, he was, “You impotent bastard.”
His driver’s license said he was William Tanner Collier of Oklahoma City. But to this man, he was, “Roy…Roy Rogers.”
“Hey, Roy.” Not surprisingly, the man didn’t even blink at Will’s fake name. Never mind that Roy Rogers was an American legend. Most people saw and heard what they wanted–no more; no less.
Instead, he smiled, a red, wet-lipped smile that might have scared a lesser man than Will. “Buy me a drink?”
Under that few day’s growth of beard, Will’s new friend looked like he could stand to skip a few drinks.
“Sorry.” Will shrugged and turned away, signaling his lack of interest and silently praying the man would move. He was blocking Will’s view.
Instead of leaving, the other man settled on the stool and lit a cigarette, adding to the cloud of smoke that hung thick as LA smog over the bar. Will narrowed his burning eyes and sighed, hoping like hell he wouldn’t have to move. The only other good vantage point was across the bar where a guy who looked big and intimidating enough to be one of Tommy “Lupo” Brown’s thugs raised a beer to Will. He lowered his eyes, focusing on the glass of Guinness in front of him as the thump of the bass vibrated his eardrums. He wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to sit next to a gay man who might actually stand a chance of beating him up.
Not that he would beat Will up, but if he tried, Will would have to shoot him. He really didn’t need that sort of attention. And besides, hiding a body that big would take a lot of work.
He much preferred the precision and prefect execution of a well-thought-out job to a random kill. The unpredictable was destined to be messy and could land his ass in places he didn’t want to be.
He’d had a few close calls. When you killed people for a living, they came with the territory. He brushed it off, trying to focus on the job at hand.
Derek Frost: Dark blond hair, 5’10”, 180 lbs, brown eyes, pierced nipples (not that anyone but Will’s current employer and Derek’s lovers knew that), heavy drinker and a predilection for gay bars even though he swears up and down he likes women better than men—but not by much.
For reasons which were of no interest to Will, Derek’s business partner wanted him dead. Which explained why Will was currently sitting in a rundown gay bar in Phoenix, Arizona. Derek was quite the social butterfly, though he had abysmal taste in bars–gay or otherwise.
Will’s new friend finally gave up and left, and now he had a bird’s eye view of Derek and Loverboy ensconced in a booth about ten feet away. Satisfied they weren’t going anywhere for a while, he turned away before someone, anyone, noticed him staring at the couple. Once again he caught the eye of the man across the bar–the big one. Despite the dive status of the Oil Spout, flirty seemed as out of place as Will felt. He shrugged, hoping the other man wouldn’t take it as an invitation, and took a deep drink of his beer, letting the cool, dark brew slide across his tongue, savoring the thick, yeasty flavor while he turned his attention elsewhere. Like the two girly-men there, in the corner, having a bitch-fest complete with claws and pouty, scowling faces. Will waited to see if someone would throw a punch, rolling his eyes when all he got was a slap instead.
So much for entertainment.
He took another small sip of his beer, not wanting his head clouded for the job in front of him. For the most part, Will could have passed any of these men on the street and they never would’ve known he’d spent the better part of his life as a professional hitman. Not that they probably cared one way or the other. He didn’t bother sparing much brain-power on them either. Will cared about the job, his family, himself. And once upon a time, he’d cared about Tilly Acuna. Until Tilly had informed him he was as warm and passionate as a brick wall and suggested maybe he find a man to snuggle with from now on. He’d packed up his things and moved out, storing his stuff at his parents place in Oklahoma City and taking this job. He’d thought that time and distance would help. They had, to a point.
Sadly, Tilly wasn’t the first woman to point out his failings when it came to the fairer sex, and it wasn’t just in the bedroom.
It was everything.
The…flowers, the talking, the movies—how did women watch that shit? Anniversaries and her friends and his friends, and friends’ weddings and babies and…in the end he’d decided maybe Tilly was onto something. Maybe he was gay. God knows he’d yet to find a woman he couldn’t live without let alone a woman he could make happy.
And surely a relationship with a man would be…easier. Much easier. There’d be football and beer, tortilla chips and queso dip, belching and no bitching about missed anniversaries or ditched dinner parties. Across the way, the two queens had devolved into a full-out slap-fest, and the bartender ducked under the bar, bat in hand, shouting at the top of his lungs. At that point, Will decided he wanted a real man. Then he accidentally caught the eye of the thug on the other side of the bar. He had a fresh beer. Now that was a man. A real man. Someone you could play softball and football with and…just then, Will’s ass puckered.
He hadn’t quite worked out the sex issue.
If given the choice, Will preferred killing from a distance. Times like these, he didn’t always get his wish. Not that he was squeamish, but distance negated problems like fibers, witnesses and DNA. Unfortunately, his quarry lived in a low-slung, one story house smack in the middle of one of Scottsdale’s nicer neighborhoods. That combined with Derek’s crazy work schedule made a long-distance kill impossible. Too many unknowns–the neighbor out walking his dog late at night, the couple out for a midnight swim, a sick baby…all of them could bring Will attention he didn’t need. And as close as he was to retirement, he wasn’t about to risk spending the rest of his life in a ten by ten cell.
He slipped out of the bar shortly after Derek and Loverboy and followed them at a discreet distance in the black ’76 Monte Carlo he’d picked up in Flagstaff for a song. If Derek ran true to form, and Will was counting on him to, he’d spend approximately ninety minutes with his new friend, then leave for home, stopping once to get cigarettes and a Dr. Pepper. Will followed them into the condo complex, cruising past as Derek and his companion stepped into a non-descript condo. He circled around to make sure Derek’s car was still there, then pulled into a fast food place across the road to eat–and kill some time.
As meticulous as he was, he could only plan things up to a certain point. The rest was left to the foibles of his fellow man, and if there was one thing he’d learned, man could fuck things up royally.
Luckily, tonight was not one of those nights. Eighty-seven minutes later, Derek’s car pulled out onto the deserted streets. Will leisurely wadded up the burger he’d barely touched, and threw it in the trash before starting the car. It roared to life as only a 405 could–with a predatory growl that would have scared off the fiercest jungle cats–and he backed out, his power steering squealing slightly as he turned hard on the wheel. He was in no hurry though; he knew exactly where his quarry was going.
He followed at a leisurely pace, letting Derek get far enough ahead that he’d never dream he was being followed. After a while, the city lights disappeared and the darkness was occasionally punctuated by a porch light. Will slowed down, not wanting to miss his prey. He came around a curve only ten minutes from Derek’s home and saw the other man’s elegant Cadillac sitting on the side of the road. It was an older model—pre-OnStar, and out here, cell phone reception was spotty, thanks to the hills.
Derek was too drunk to change the tire, and yes, so drunk he shouldn’t even have been driving in the first place. And he was far too drunk to do something as simple as call AAA, when he could walk the quarter-mile home.
Will rolled down the windows, slowing the car to a crawl and killing the lights. The late night air was cool and damp as if weighted down by the quiet. He eased to a stop at the top of the hill, watching Derek slowly weave his way down the asphalt. Thanks to Will’s slightly clammy hands, the steering wheel was a little slippery in his grip as he checked the rearview mirror for headlights. His oh-so-familiar case of nerves didn’t come from a fear of getting caught so much as a fear of pesky human variables.
This was where weeks and sometimes months of planning and patience came in handy. Once he worked the execution of the job out in his head, Will didn’t think too much about the actual person. He’d learned a long time ago it was better (read easier) if he kept things all nice and businesslike. His job wasn’t just about killing. Any fool could kill. But a pro could make it look good, look like an accident, fate, the luck of the draw, not murder. And Will was a pro.
Will’s pulse picked up pace, his heart beating a rough tattoo in his chest as he glanced in the rearview one more time. Inky blackness greeted him.
And he had to get to Derek before he got much closer to the turn-off for his subdivision. The houses nearest the corner were quiet and dark as was everything for as far as Will could see. He sucked in a deep breath, blew it out and pressed down on the gas, steadily accelerating, weaving down the two-lane road like a rollercoaster picking up speed. The engine sang under the hood as he careened toward Derek who didn’t even realize he’d seen his last sunset.
And his last sunrise.
Will never slowed down as the car ate the road between them, he never slowed down as the bumper kissed Derek, plowing him down, rolling over him. He didn’t slam on the brakes afterward, but slowed gradually so as to not alert anyone. The car finally rocked to a stop, and he backed up, parking short of where Derek’s body was.
Will snapped on some gloves, climbed out and jogged to where the other man’s body lay, his rubber-soled shoes whisper-quiet on the asphalt. His quarry didn’t move; the moonlight glimmered off the dark pool growing around his head. Careful to avoid the rapidly growing puddle of blood, he reached down, checked for a pulse then smiled in satisfaction when he found none. He stood for a moment longer, waiting to see if the man’s chest would rise or fall, but it remained still.
Around him the night was so quiet not even a cricket dared to chirp.
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