The screen door in the kitchen slammed, and Andrea VonBrant dropped into the chair across the table.
Maggie finished chewing her slice of mango and glanced up from her tablet screen. Andrea’s pinched cheeks and frown of frustration made Maggie’s heart sink. If the Texas wolf’s movie-star blonde hair and nice rack hadn’t cinched the deal… What the hell was wrong with this guy? “That well, huh?”
“Dammit, Maggie. I tried everything short of stripping. I’m already wearing a bikini top.” She gestured to the skimpy white triangles barely covering her boobs. “It’s a tropical paradise outside and that man is colder than a witch’s titty. Every other man on that dock was willing to bend over backwards to take me out to see the sights on the bay, except jackhole, Luther Frost.”
“If you hadn’t found evidence of him sleeping with women in the past, I’d say send in Donovan or Niko to see if he was gay.”
Maggie shook her head. She’d found enough social media to prove the man wasn’t gay. And most of the women he’d hung out with in the past were a variety of shapes and sizes. So there’d been no clue to what would actually peak his interest. “Well, we can’t sit around here any more.” She pushed the plate across the table. “I keep running across these feeds I can’t access. I think I need a hard line.”
“He’ll give you a hard line, for sure.” Andrea smiled. “He is a hard line.”
“No, like hard-wired. The system doesn’t make any sense. I need to talk to someone on the security team who knows it.”
“Then it’s time for your miniature tattooed ass to take a turn. Maybe he likes mouthy sprites.” Andrea snagged a piece of mango from Maggie’s plate and smiled.
“This is ridiculous. I’m going to just go down there and talk to him. He can’t possibly be as intimidating as all of you describe. No man is made out of stone.”
“Go for it, honey. My brothers are all big men, but this guy takes the cake. He’s like WWF big.”
Maggie rolled her eyes and looked down at her clothes. She was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt that said I’d Rather Be BASE Jumping and khaki shorts. What the hell. She didn’t have a bikini to change into and her boobs wouldn’t fill it out anyway. Most of the time, including today, she went bra-less. She wasn’t going to try and lure him with her Tinkerbell shaped body, she was just going to tell him outright that they needed his help and that he had to stop working for a madman.
A little reason couldn’t hurt. At this point, it wouldn’t be a loss. If they couldn’t convince him to help, they were back at square one. They’d already chartered a boat under the guise of a deep sea fishing expedition and scoped out the island. Blunt high cliff faces all the way around except for the one guarded bay. There was only one way in and out of that hellhole, and Luther was guarding it.
Maggie let the screen door slam on her way out of Julianna and Alex’s kitchen. The team had rented another apartment in the same building, but they’d all been together for so long now, they mostly hung out in Alex’s place. Not to mention, Julianna kept it well stocked with food and alcohol.
After over a month in Mexico, they’d all learned to speak enough Spanish to get by just about anywhere, but most of them stayed pretty close to home. Especially she and Alex.
Adrian knew what they looked like and she hated the uncomfortable feeling that settled over her anytime she headed toward the hotel. She passed through the street market sellers and hustled through crowds of people on a mission to find food for lunch. The dock was about a quarter mile south of the hotel. After twenty minutes of weaving through smelly bodies, her skin tingled and she glanced around.
Why would her wolf magick be talking to her now? There weren’t any other wolves around. She was far enough from the hotel that Adrian wouldn’t be able to sense her. But it wasn’t that kind of tingle, anyway. This was different. This was something she’d never felt before.
She took a few more steps forward. Made her way along the road leading to the dock and hurried down the stairs toward the boats. The second her feet touched the wooden planks, she gasped for air and clung to a rail to keep herself upright.
A man stopped to see if she was okay.
Maggie nodded. “Just out of breath. Thanks.” She waved him away and stood up, doing her best to seem normal.
Heat radiated through her body, starting with raising the hairs on her arms, then traveling through her breasts with a surge that had her panting. The air around her thickened with magick. Her panties were soaked and she scanned each boat as she passed, waiting for the magick to show her the source of her arousal. The friction of walking while her clit throbbed proved difficult, and she breathed slowly to avoid the orgasm coiling inside her. The last thing she needed was to collapse in the middle of a crowd, screaming in pleasure.
Her mate was here. On the dock. On one of the boats. She couldn’t tell where yet, but he was. She plodded forward, gritting her teeth. Feeling magick had always been easy for her. She could sense things long before others in her pack. She knew what it felt like to have Fate send a friend. To have Fate send a teacher. There were different signals she’d picked up on throughout her life, for herself and for others. But never had she felt such an overwhelming desire to be connected to another person.
Each step brought her closer. She’d inspected each boat she’d passed, feeling for crew members, but the magick pushed her forward, closer and closer to the last boat on the dock.
The White Pearl. Luther’s boat.
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” she hissed under her breath, leaning against a tall pylon. “It’s times like these when I’m convinced you’re a woman,” she spat out into the air. “You certainly have a woman’s sense of humor.” Not that Fate would hear her, but at least she’d gotten it off her chest.
The magickal cord pulling her down the dock tightened again and tugged her closer to the boat. Luther had been her destination all along. Apparently, according to Fate, he was also her mate.
“I’m going,” she whispered, creeping closer to the boat and to him. His bare broad shoulders glistened in the sun where he stacked crates in the middle of the deck.
She stepped onto the gangway and froze when he turned and looked at her. His brown eyes burned with heat and anger and a healthy dose of confusion.
“Get off my boat,” he growled.
“Are you Luther Frost?” She knew he was, but at the moment, she couldn’t put a more coherent question together. Her eyes strayed to his corded arms and sculpted pecs. Gods have mercy.
* * *
Luther ground his teeth against whatever damn thing buzzed through his body. He just wanted to get his work done. Why wouldn’t they fucking leave him alone?
“Whatever you’ve got, just leave it on the dock. I’ve got work to do.”
The little sprite of a woman cocked her head. “What a gentleman you are.”
“Never claimed to be one. Now, get off my boat.” He took another crate from off the pile and moved it aside. The damn thing had to be here somewhere.
She took another step across the dark surface of the gangway. He could see her lime green mesh aggressive-tread trail shoes in the corner of his eye. What the hell was she doing on the beach in two-hundred-dollar hiking shoes?
His gaze continued to travel up the tightly-muscled legs, all the way up her fit little body. She was certainly easy on the eyes. Her tattooed arms were covered in dark blue and green ink, and she had short, spikey, dark hair and the darkest eyes he had ever seen. Or did they just look dark against her creamy, pinky skin?
What the fuck? Why was he waxing eloquent about a chick in hiking shoes? Especially a chick who just needed to get the hell off his boat.
“Something wrong?” She had the nerve to smirk.
“Other than the mountain of fucking work I have to do?” Luther moved another crate, focusing his energy on the task at hand. “No.”
“You don’t have some jackhole comment about my outfit?” She grabbed the white ropes on his gangway and her athletic body swayed.
There were some perky little tits under the fabric of that gray t-shirt, and her nipples were occasionally visible, when she moved just the right way.
“I don’t give a shit about what you wear.” He stretched his back and put both hands on the pile of crates. “I don’t have time to fuck around or be the nice local who gives you directions to whatever tourist shit you’re looking for. This isn’t one of those hire-out boats. I have a real job.”
She took another step and stood at the edge of his gangway. His skin itched and he found himself flexing his shoulders. Everything was suddenly on edge.
“I know what your job is, Luther Frost.”
The sentence froze him stiff, with a crate in his hands. He eyed the little woman. Could she be a test from Adrian? How would she know who he was? She wasn’t one of the hotel staff, she wasn’t a client, and she wasn’t a distributor.
“I’m not going to tell you again.” He forced his muscles to move and set down the crate, leaning against it. “Get off my boat.”
She dangled one green shoe off the end of the gangway, twisting her foot back and forth. “Technically, I’m not on your boat. So I can’t get off.”
Ignoring her jab, he took another crate off the pile and saw the red stamp he’d been looking for. The dumb blonde who’d been sent from the hotel to bring the last of the shipment had obviously not been a regular, because she didn’t know to leave the red stamp crates on the top.
He picked it up and walked past the foot-dangling pixie girl, toward the back cabin. But as he passed her, the pull toward her was visceral. Every part of him wanted to reach out for her.
Thank God his hands were full.
Luther ignored the random thoughts and kept going. The very secret and very illegal ammunition needed not to be out in the open where any tourist could pop the crate open and find the giant JHPs Adrian ordered by the crate.
If his buddies could see him now, hiding illegal ammunition on his smuggling boat.
He set the crate on the stairs by the wheelhouse and a pang of regret weaseled its way across his chest. Fuck it. He thought he’d killed all that long ago.
Steps behind him caught his attention and Luther whirled around. The woman had one of the red stamp crates in her hands and followed him like a puppy. Anger rose up, climbing from the pit of his stomach, all the way into his throat.
Luther grabbed the crate out of her hands. “I told you not to touch anything.”
“No, you didn’t.” She narrowed those pretty eyes at him. “You said to get off your boat, when I wasn’t even on it.”
“Well, don’t fucking touch anything.” He ground his teeth and set the last red stamp crate on top of the other.
“I’m not going away just because you’re an asshole to me.”
When Luther turned back around, he found her standing with her legs wide, arms crossed, and face all hard lines. She was pissed? Hell, he was pissed.
“Yes, you’re going away.”
She shook her head and anchored herself to the side of the boat. “Look. I need your help.”
In spite of himself, he barked out a laugh. “You can’t have it.”
“I’m not kidding.” She reached in front of him, putting her arm through the path of his exit. “And you’re going to help me.”
He stepped, toe-to-toe with her, and something warm coursed through his body like wildfire eating through a prairie hillside. With a little shake of his head, he studied the planes of her face.
Where the hell did she get off ordering him around?
But when he opened his mouth to say those exact words, his throat was dry and his air was stuck, and he couldn’t move his tongue. He just stood there, like a jackass, flapping his jaw wordlessly.
“You’re going to help me,” she repeated, “because you’re a good guy.”
Even the burning thing that seemed to have set his body on fire couldn’t shield him from the lance to the heart with those words.
He took a step forward and, almost to get out of his way, she stepped back. But Luther kept advancing on her, driving her back until her progress was stopped by the wall of the wheelhouse. He put a hand on either side of her head and leaned into her face with menace in his heart.
“You don’t know me,” he growled against the stab of those words. “I am not a good guy.”
In a strange, almost ethereal movement, her small hand slipped onto his cheek. The contact of her skin ignited the wildfire inside once again, and he had to catch his breath to steel himself.
“You are a good guy, Luther.” Her eyebrows knitted close together, giving her eyes a sadness that assaulted him. “You don’t know what I know.”
He shook his head and gripped her wrist hard, making her wince. Luther wanted to push her away, he wanted to throw her off the boat, he wanted to punch something. But the air between them was on fire, and something big and heavy pushed him into her when he wanted nothing more than to run off the edge of the boat and jump in the water and swim until his body gave out…just to get away from whatever had lit between them.
Luther tried to push her way, but his body wouldn’t do it. Fear gripped him hard by the throat and squeezed.
This woman was dangerous.
He needed to get away from her. Now.