Tamara HoganTamara HoganTamara HoganTamara Hogan

Excerpt: Intoxicate Me

Book 5: Underbelly Chronicles

“Sasha? Are you there?”

Flynn's voice brought Sasha's attention back to the phone. “Yeah,” she said, leaning back against Jack's bed pillows. Trying to take a business call while Jack showered in the next room probably hadn't been the smartest idea. The bathroom door was open, so she could hear every distracting sound. Water hissed from dual showerheads, meandered down his spectacular frame, then hit the floor tiles with uneven splats… She cleared her throat. Now was not the time to fantasize about offering her hands as his washcloth. Flynn had a situation he wanted to discuss. Apparently last night's headliner had trashed Underbelly's largest dressing room after their performance.

“The cleaning staff found cocaine residue all over the place,” he said.

She pressed her fingers to the bridge of her still-sore nose. “So much for the band's well-publicized sobriety.”

“Didn't the lead singer just get out of rehab?”

“Yeah.” Her eyes narrowed as the sound of the water falling to the shower's floor tiles became…more rhythmic.

Jack was no longer simply bathing.

She couldn't help but inhale, couldn't help but absorb the sharp sexual energy he emitted. As Flynn described the damage at the club, she couldn't do anything but try to ignore the delicious curl of sensation that spiraled down her spine.

Somehow, within the next couple of minutes, she had to find enough self-control to dress Jack's wounds and get him started on his day. Then, and only then, she'd head to the guest bathroom, with its wonderful handheld shower nozzle.

She and Jack had the exact same problem, but they weren't doing anything about it—not together, at any rate. She'd never spent so much time alone in a bathroom in her life.

“Is there anything else I can do?” Flynn asked.

Flynn had been aces managing the situation, getting the band back to their tour bus and back on the road, but speaking to their business manager about reimbursement was her job. “I can take it from here. Thanks so much for handling things.” Screw the band's rabid fan base. They'd never perform at Underbelly again. She glanced at the window. “You should have enough time to get home before the sun comes up.” The sky was starting to brighten, but the sun hadn't popped over the horizon yet.

“Okay, Mom,” Flynn said dryly. “I'll put on some VampScreen, just in case.”

Flynn only lived a couple of blocks away from the club, but he rode a bicycle to work. The special sunscreen would buy him a little more time. “Wear a hat and mittens while you're at it.”

Flynn laughed. “Talk to you later.”

“‘Bye.” She tucked her phone into the pocket of her fleece jacket, then sighed at the bathroom door. Leaving the room wouldn't help. Nothing would help. The sexual tension between she and Jack had always been explosive, and distracting herself was getting more difficult by the day. There was work, sure, and plenty of it, but during the time she'd stayed with Jack, she'd spent too much time either hate-watching HGTV, or reading—which didn't help, because her e-reader was loaded with erotica.

Lying on Jack's decadently soft bed wasn't helping in the least.

She got up and roamed around Jack's gray and blue bedroom, a color scheme no doubt chosen to showcase the exquisite mixed-media wall hanging dominating the room's west wall. A beautiful ocean scene with crashing waves, the textiles brought to mind not the relaxing, soft blues of the Caribbean, but of a scene more northerly, with sharp rocks and ridges lying just beneath the surface.

The scene seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place it.

In the bathroom, the water splats got shorter, more erratic. She stilled, inhaling deeply and closing her eyes, savoring the snarl of sexual energy.

He came, silently and violently.

Locking her knees for support, she absorbed the blast. His plush orgasm suffused her, and she was half tempted to let her hand skim south. No. Bad idea. He'd be out of the bathroom soon, and he'd need her help to dress his wounds. To distract herself, she slipped open the top drawer of his bedside table and peeked in. There was a small white legal pad, a high-end mechanical pencil, some over-the-counter allergy tablets, and a box of condoms.

The good news? He had condoms. The bad news? The box was half-empty, confirming he had a sex life.

The water turned off in the bathroom. She quietly closed the drawer, and was standing by the side of the bed when Jack padded from the bathroom into the bedroom a couple of minutes later, wearing low-slung flannel pajama bottoms and scrubbing at his damp hair with a towel. Though he couldn't possibly see her erect nipples through the thick layers of fleece, she crossed her arms over her chest.

Maybe Minnesota winters were good for something after all.

He had a beautiful body, built on leaner lines than Lukas. Anyone who'd spent much time with him knew Jack's tailored suits disguised some serious muscle, but seeing him wear little more than skin was a rare treat. With his broad shoulders, and beautifully defined chest, he was eye candy by any measure. The blond hair dusting his pecs darkened slightly as it traveled down his abdomen, then disappeared under his sagging waistband. The plaid flannel pajama pants should have looked very Ward Cleaver, but…didn't. The tissue-thin fabric draped faithfully over his penis—

“Where do you want me?”

Anywhere. Everywhere.

“Want me to sit on the bed again?” he asked.

“Yeah, that worked well yesterday.” A bed, and so much beautiful, bare skin… Droplets of water lingered on his torso. She wanted to use her tongue as a towel.

Enough of that.

She climbed onto the bed behind him. After a good, private sniff—his soap reminded her of a deep, dark forest—she carefully dried, then removed, the plastic wrap she'd taped over his shoulder and back, and then started dealing with the soiled gauze. Thankfully she wasn't squeamish, because the bullet wounds were still pretty gory, particularly the exit wound on the front of his shoulder. “You're healing well,” she said, setting the gauze on the towel she'd laid on the bedspread. Her hands hovered, hesitant to touch. Because she wanted to touch, very badly.

His breathing changed, growing slower. Deeper.

Damn it, he was drawing in her pheromones. She darted a quick glance at his lap. Yeah, there was a more prominent bump under the fabric than there'd been just a minute ago.

The man recovered quickly.

Talk about something, anything. “Did you play football when you were young?” Behind him, she rolled her eyes. Even trying to distract herself, she focused on his body—a complete Florence Nightingale fail.

“No. I didn't play basketball, either—which, given my height, is the typical follow-up question.” A corner of his mouth tipped up. “Like any self-respecting NorCal boy, I surfed, and played Ultimate Frisbee.”

And graduated from Stanford and Stanford Law while he was at it. “Frisbee? Seriously?” Though she teased him, she found the unexpected fact delightful. The Jack she knew was so damn serious all the time. “Did you have a college stoner phase I haven't heard about?”

“I plead the Fifth.”

Grinning, she tore open the fresh gauze pads she'd need to dress his wounds. After graduating, Jack had practiced law at his family's firm in San Francisco before moving to the Twin Cities. “A surfer, hmm?” The turbulent water scene hanging on the wall adjacent to his bed made more sense now. “Have you ever surfed Mavericks?”

“You know it?” he asked.

“Yeah.” The northern California surf break was world-famous—infamous—for its carnage. “Scarlett and I road-tripped there once.”

“To Mavs? Why?”

“You know sirens; they love the water. Scarlett had a song in her head, and wanted some inspiration.” Sasha picked up a fresh gauze pad, handling it around the edges. “The waves looked like mountains.”

“They're amazing, aren't they?” Jack said. “Too much height for me, though. My home break is—was—just north of San Francisco.” He paused. “It's been years since I surfed there. Since I surfed anywhere.”

“So you brought a little bit of home with you to the heartland.” She gestured to the wall hanging. “It's a beautiful piece.” She tore a piece of surgical tape off the roll, positioned the fresh gauze pad over his back wound, then carefully taped it down. When she'd snooped around his place a couple of days ago, she hadn't seen a surfboard, but she had found a handgun sitting in the printer paper box she'd carried up from her car the day they arrived. She'd solved the mystery of what was in the box, but both the box and the gun had disappeared the very next day. “Have you ever thought about surfing Lake Superior?” she asked. A few crazy Minnesotans did, almost every year.

Jack shook his head. “I've watched some videos online, though. Those guys are nuts.”

“And surfing a forty foot wave isn't?”

“Mavericks is cold, but Lake Superior?” He shivered. “That's some next-level crazy.”

She finished dressing his shoulder wounds. “You're healing well,” she said briskly, giving the tape around the last fresh gauze pad a completely unnecessary stroke. “Did Adnan say how long you needed the gauze?”

“Maybe another week.” He slowly flexed the fingers of his right hand.

“Hey, look at that!” She grinned at him. “Better than yesterday.”

“It's a start,” he said with a sigh. “Never fear, you'll soon be able to get back to your own life.”

“Don't worry about that.” She patted his uninjured shoulder. “I'm keeping busy.” And even with the gauze, even with the pain, so was he. Under her watchful eye, he balanced work and rest, and ate just enough to keep his big body fuelled. She caught him wincing occasionally, especially when he did his physical therapy exercises. Adnan had said that his fingers, hand, and arm might tingle quite painfully as he regained function. But Jack was right. Soon, he'd be able to manage on his own. Her job was nearly over. And speaking of which… “How's your pain level? Need a pill?”

“I took one before I took a shower.”

“Only one?” Pain still showed in his face. “Are you sure you don't need the full dose?”

“Yes, I'm sure,” he snapped. A heavy silence descended. “Sorry.”

“About what?”

He looked at her, his blue eyes burning with an emotion his stony face didn't reflect. Pain was in the back seat, and frustration in the front. Frustration with his body. With this situation. With her.

Fair enough. She stood, gathering her supplies and the discarded gauze and plastic wrap. “I'll leave you alone.”

He reached for her forearm with his left hand. “Really. I'm sorry.”

“For what?”

“For being a dick.” He cast a disgusted look at his groin. “No pun intended.”

“You're entitled to be a little crabby now and then,” she said mildly. “I'll be out of your hair soon.” Heat pumped from his body, and it was all she could do not to lean toward the warmth. “What's wrong? I can tell something is bothering you, but not what. Use some words.”

His jaw tightened.

She touched his thigh. “You can't hurt my feelings, you know.”

He looked at his lap again, then faced her. “Adnan told me I can't take pheromone intoxication meds and pain medication at the same time.”

“So, you have an erection,” she said, shrugging. Actually, he'd had a reassuring number of erections for a man whose body sported bullet wounds. “It's an autonomic physiological response,” she continued, brisk as a nurse. “Don't worry, I won't take your hard-ons personally—”

“You damn well should.”

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