Blood will always be thicker than water.
DARED MI6 agent Darrak Hadad has loved Freya Quinn since the moment they became partners, but the time to make his move never seems quite perfect. When Freya’s biggest secret—her link to the deadly Faraday family—drives a wedge between them, she fears she’s lost her best friend forever. But Dare isn’t the type to surrender what he wants most, and what he wants most is Freya, as his wife. Dare and Freya must prove to each other, and to themselves, that their story is meant to have a happily ever after, even as danger closes in.
CHANCED Pippa Landry is the queen of bad luck, as evidenced by her recently ruined wedding to a criminal money-launderer for a black-market arms dealer. Now her failures are splashed all over internet, and she’s mobbed every time she leaves her London townhouse, especially as her former fiancé heads to trial. Even worse, she can’t seem to shake her new shadow, Keir Quinn; the gorgeous, secretive bombs expert who saved her on her wedding day refuses to let her face her enemies alone…until Pippa begins to wonder if, perhaps, her luck might be about to change.
HACKED Cybersecurity expert Della Quinn is tired of looking at ex-Navy pilot Gavin Bok’s stupidly handsome face, and ever since she transferred to the Faradays’ Chicago headquarters, that feels like all she’s been doing. Still, when a mission takes them both to Russia in search of a missing helicopter, Della finds she’s not the only one looking—and Gavin more than likes what he sees. As they race to beat the clock, their attraction explodes into a connection neither anticipated—but one they’ll fight to the death to save.
Digital and print publication date to be announced.
The doors dinged open, and they entered the lift. “So this is a visit to Heidi up in MESEC?” MESEC being the Middle Eastern Securities section, and Heidi being liaison officer Heidi Longfellow, a CIA specialist in Arabic languages and cultures on loan to MI6. “And why am I going with you?”
“We’re meant to resolve our spat, or we’ll be reassigned different partners. Yang’s orders.”
“I do so love ultimatums.” Reaching out, she punched the emergency stop, forcing the lift to a jerking halt. The overhead fluorescents darkened and the alternate power-sourced lights, orange and faint, flicked on from ankle-height. “How long are you going to stay mad at me, Dare? Another month? A year?” She swallowed audibly, her gaze dropping to her fidgeting fingers. “Forever?”
“No.” Denial swept through him like a flash flood, ringing in his ears and dulling his mind to all but the most immediate of threats–her. “Not forever.”
“Then when?” Her hoarse whisper gouged his chest with its claws, shredding muscle and tissue until it latched onto the beating heart of him. And then punctured. “I miss you. I miss you every single day. I miss you right now, and you’re standing in front of me.”
“Freya.” His hands went to either side of her throat, thumbs stroking over the fragile tendons disappearing into the flirty collar of her blouse. Her skin was warm, so warm, and just as soft as he remembered from the snowy night a month earlier. He was struck with the insane urge to lick her, taste her, discover how that soft warmth translated to flavor on his tongue. Her scent destroyed him, sweet and fine, filling his nostrils and then his lungs. But an immense pressure weighed on his brain, forced him to speak. “I hate you for not telling me your secret.” Fingertips sliding into the cool strands of her hair, swept up in a long ponytail that gathered at her crown, he dropped his forehead to hers. His eyelashes swept down, hers fluttering against his cheekbones in the most delicate of caresses. “And I hate that I hate you over this.”
The heat of her breath buffeted his mouth, causing him to bite his lower lip just to keep from biting her. “Hate. You…you hate me?”
Fuck, the pain in her voice. Those talons sank deeper into his pounding heart, made him bleed. “Don’t hate you,” he muttered, truthfully. “Be easier if I did.” His palms slid upward to cup her jaw, tilt her face closer still to his.
“What would be easier?”
“These feelings. This need.” His lips hovered over hers, so close to touching, to kissing. Fuck. “It’s all for you, baby.” Even if he told himself he didn’t want it anymore.
“Does that mean–” her breath shuddered out as her touch lighted on his waist before gripping his hips, the fierceness of her hold delighting him, hardening him “–I can stop missing you now?”
Instead of answering, Dare surrendered to compulsion and took what he’d been dreaming of for what felt like eternity. It seemed as though he had been born fighting the temptation of Freya Quinn’s mouth, but here she was, her lips parting eagerly beneath his like she needed it, him. The breathless little moan she elicited as her tongue boldly laved his lower lip twined around his spinal cord to zip liquid electricity from neck to base.
She stole his surprise, his intent, his control, stealing a taste of him with her wicked mouth. Her fingernails bit into his skin through the layers of clothing, the sudden sharpness spurring his lust into the stratosphere where thought, rational or otherwise, ceased to exist.
He took. It was the only word for it—he took until the taking of her was all he knew. With a groan, he yanked apart her jacket and slid his hands beneath the hem of her blouse, gripping the dip of her waist with needy hands. His palms absorbed the silky perfection of her bare skin, causing his fingers to flex and dig in because the thought of relinquishing her made him want to roar in outrage. “Beautiful girl, you taste so good.” With a sharp tug, he rocked her hips forward, thrusting his erection into her softness, quaking ever so slightly when he felt her melt against him. “Feel so good.”
“Dare.” Her nails raked along his lower back, leaving furrows in his skin deep enough to set shivers dancing along his nerve endings and his cock throbbing behind his belt. “Dare, please.”
“What are you begging for, baby?” His hold shifted to her bottom, squeezing and shaping the rounded curves through her trousers. “How about you beg me a little more, yeah? Ask nice and I might give it to you.” He licked deep into her mouth, reveling in the wet heat that was a poor substitute for the other wet, hot place he wanted his tongue.
Except kissing her wasn’t a poor substitute for anything, but what he’d spent so many of his waking moments over the past year fantasizing about, and he wasn’t about to waste the opportunity. Backing her into the lift wall, he hefted her up against the handrail, aligning the vee of her thighs with the insistent hardness that demanded to get inside all her tight pink places, stat.
She wriggled as he forced her up onto her toes, her arms lifting to lock around his neck. “God, I needed this,” she breathed into his mouth, her fingers white-knuckled in his hair and clenching hard enough to sting his scalp. His girl liked it a little rough, it seemed, a dark thrill sizzling in the base of his skull at the knowledge. “I needed to know what this was like.”
“This?” He rolled his hips, and she moaned, the sound of her pleasure spurring him to thrust again. Anything to keep her happy and clinging to him.
“Kissing you.” The sexiest whimper left her lips. “Being close to you.”
“Close,” he repeated, breath hitching as his hands traveled from her arse to her hips and over her ribs to stroke his thumbs along the sides of her breasts. “Not as partners.”
“Not as partners,” she echoed faintly before stilling. “Partners.” Her hands abruptly left his hair, her inhalations ragged but slowing as she turned her face from his. “Can we even remain partners, Dare, if you don’t trust me?”
Moment officially over. Jaw clenched, body pulsing, he settled her firmly on her feet before backing off, but only a few inches, unable to put too much distance between them when the taste of her was so fresh and sweet on his lips. He watched in silence as she fixed her jacket, smoothed a shaking hand over her mussed hair. It was the trembling that drove him to speak, words spilling out without warning. Words he’d wanted to say for days, weeks. “You want to run from this.” From us. “If you’d wanted something real, you would’ve been honest with me from the first.”
“And tell me how that would’ve come up in conversation, huh, Dare? Hi, my name’s Freya, I’m twenty-six, your new partner, oh, and by the way, my mother was the stepsister of the CEO of Faraday Industries before she died in the Omagh bombing!” She shoved at his chest before pounding her fist against the emergency stop button once more, sending the brightly lit carriage flying toward Level Three. “You want to know something, Hadad? I guarantee I would’ve told you the truth if we’d gotten past that first date. I would never have left you in the dark about that side of my life if there were something more between us than partners.”
“Yeah, right.” But doubt twinged his conscience. That…made sense. Freya was the painfully honest type, her personality uncomfortable with prevarication, and part of the reason why Yang had paired them together in the first place. Dare was an efficient liar, though he worked hard to never lie to his colleagues. But, in the spirit of honesty, he could admit that he didn’t automatically share his each and every secret, not even with Freya.
Then again, he also didn’t have a secret that involved being knocked unconscious and tied up by the object of his affections. That was particular to one Freya Quinn.
The doors dinged open on Level Three, and he stepped out–noticing only at the last second that Freya wasn’t following. He slammed a hand to the doors, keeping them from closing as he glared at her. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Getting a security detail arranged for the Fadel royal family isn’t a two-man job. And I–” She shook her head, arms crossed protectively over her chest, jacket bunching tight over around her arms and shoulders. “I think we ought to spend some time apart.”
Panic rocked him, turning his knuckles white where he gripped the lift door. “You’re running away instead of dealing with this head-on.”
“Dare, you just kissed the bleedin’ life outta me,” she snapped, short-tempered, the lilt as fraught as ever in the rolling syllables. “There’s nothin’ about us I’m prepared to deal with until I can breathe normal again. Now go do your feckin’ job.”
He let go of the doors and watched as they slid shut on her flushed face, her wide mouth bite-stung and full-lipped, green eyes glinting with ill-suppressed ire. “Woman’s a bloody witch,” he growled under his breath as he stalked off to corner Heidi in MESEC and do his damn job–without his partner, thank you very much.
The remainder of workday passed in a flurry of color, light and movement, for all that he was trapped at the confines of his desk, at alternate times whizzing by and crawling inexorably forward. His thoughts, in their entirety, centered around Freya. Kissing Freya. Touching Freya. Hearing Freya. Tasting Freya. Freya, Freya. Freya. By the time he’d closed out from his email and updated his calendar to accommodate Monday morning’s meetings, the clock on his mobile told him the sun had long since set over the city skyline.
“Oy, mate.” Mason Burr sauntered over, his lanky frame exacerbated by his slouching posture, hiding the fact that he was very tall man–probably somewhere around six-four, if he bothered to stand straight. He carried a messenger bag, no doubt bearing one of his twenty thousand laptops, the strap cutting across his chest as he yanked up the hood of his red sweatshirt to cover his shaggy hair. “Wanna grab a pint?”
“Nah. Got plans to hit the gym,” Dare lied, leaning back in his chair, one foot planted on the floor as the wheels rolled back and forth an inch at a time. “Another time, yeah?”
Mason nodded good-naturedly before striding away to the lift bank, whistling a jaunty ditty as he disappeared from sight.
Dare should go to the gym. The tension he needed to eradicate was manifesting itself in anxious energy, layers of it that would require major sweat-inducing activity to peel away. He had a specific form of activity in mind, of course, but the likelihood of that happening…yeah. Not after she had pushed him away so succinctly, with both body and word.
His commute home was a blur, boarding one train only to disembark and transfer to another, switching lines to get to his exit at Baker Street. He had found the flat near Regent’s Park only six months earlier, after his Camdentown lease ran its course. Freya had helped in the house hunt, collecting and collating data to narrow down his choices, putting him in the best possible neighborhood pertaining to his interests outside of MI6. The best thing you can do for yourself as a spy, she had sternly informed him, pushing her glasses higher up her nose, is build a life away from the chaos. A full life, with wine and books and naps and–
Are you describing my life or yours, Quinn?
She’d scowled at him and skirted his body, chin lifted as she greeted the leasing agent showing them the flat Dare had, eventually, chosen to rent. That it was only four blocks from Freya’s own flat was a fact he currently chose to ignore.
By the time he unlocked the main door and climbed the stairs to his top-floor unit, ignoring the facts felt impossible. Overheated. He was overheated, his body burning up like he had a high-grade fever. Kicking his door shut behind him, he dropped his unused gym bag to the floor and tugged his sweater up and over his head. He ought to have taken Mason up on his offer to hit the pub, but liquor was the last thing he needed when his head was still woozy from the afternoon.
His chest heaved, his breaths outpacing the capacity of his lungs as he stood in his foyer, tracing his bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. She’d licked him there, the sweet sweep of her tongue gliding over his lip before slipping into his mouth. In his arms, pressed against the mirrored wall of the lift, she had made such sounds, such plaintively needy sounds; the memory of them rang in his ears and raised chill bumps across the exposed skin of his torso.
What was the rule–if your cock’s been hard for more than four hours, go see a doctor? Except that was only if you’d taken a little blue pill, and Dare’s erection was one-hundred-percent natural and caused by a mouthy Irish redhead who, he decided, was determined to send his brain straight to his balls for all eternity. He bent at the waist, wincing, and propped his hands on his knees, letting his head hang as he willed the stiffness at his groin into submission.
C’mon, mate. You’re killing me here.
With a groan, he straightened, stretching his arms overhead, toeing off his oxfords as he fought to relax in the darkness of his flat. He refused to let the night become a total wash. Leftovers in the fridge, lager on the counter, Netflix on his television, and then he’d subject his body to a rigorous floor routine that would, hopefully, sweat the lust right out of his system.
At least until he went to bed. He knew, as soon as he lay flat atop his mattress, any effort to forget her and that kiss would be null and void. His hand would be fisted around his cock, stroking and pumping and her face just right there right there in front of him, soft and warm and her pink lips curving and–
Damn buzzer. His neighbors had a habit of not specifying which button the food delivery boys should press, but the complex had a standing rule to never permit anyone entry, regardless, without first checking identities. He hit Speak next to the door. “Yeah?”
“Let me up, Dare.” A voice straight from his dreams–or straight from the lift a few hours ago–filtered through the speaker. “I’m not running from this any longer.”
2018 © The Quinns by Edie Harris