FLESH AND HEROES

A dangerous assignment to simultaneously protect one countess while steal from another becomes an explosive job, and turns up the sexy heat between Effie and Mr. Big. If they survive, it will be the end to their Switzerland caper; the world will be their oyster, and they can return back home in peace. Or can they?

PREVIEW

I’m groggy. “Mmmn, I was dreaming that I was having sex in a limo.”
Rich, warm, male laughter. “Was it good sex?”
I wake up all the way and look over next to me. Large, warm body. Very large. Mr. Big.
“Yeah. The best.”
“Then it wasn’t a dream,” he says and rolls on top of me. He looks at his watch. “No time for a repeat.”
“Damn.”
He gives a quick, sweet kiss. “Time to get up, Effie.”
I remember his name is T. Right. Okay. “And I’m in Switzerland. Bern.”
“All night long, babe.”
He hops up. One quick move, way too graceful for a guy that’s bigger than most cargo ships.
“You get the shower first. Women take longer than men.”
I narrow my eyes at him.
“If we shower together we’ll never make the ball on time, Cinderella.”
Whatever.
I shower quickly and walk out of the bathroom with just a yellow towel wrapped around my waist and nothing else, to throw him.
“Oh. Whoa!” he says. “I guess I could spare ten minutes, beautiful.”
“Nuht-ah,” I say. “I have to dry my hair. I’ll do it out here. Bathroom’s yours.”
“Let’s get this job over with in a hurry. Tomorrow I’ll knock over a jewelry store and get you rubies of your own. We’ll put them between those beautiful breasts of yours, and I’ll ravish you.”
I smile. He can steal, kill, fuck, and he knows how to give a compliment.
Life is good.
I point toward the bathroom. He picks up a small black toiletry bag and goes in.
He spends maybe five minutes in the shower. I hear the shower go off. I hear the bathroom door open.
I smell him, but, as usual, I don’t hear his footsteps. I have my back to him. I’m bent way over, blow-drying my hair. So actually, I don’t have my back to him; I have my ass to him. I’m still wearing just the towel.
T comes up behind me and fits his crotch to my ass, holding my hips firmly. “I don’t need ten minutes,” he says, his voice so low it warps. “Five. Two.”
I laugh.
He picks me up, throwing me high in the air and catching me cradled to his chest. He nips my shoulder. The blow-dryer bounces to floor, forgotten.
“One,” he says. His voice is husky. T kisses me, and I melt into him.
“Later,” I whisper.
“Aw, fuck, Effie.”
He puts me down, sliding me against every part of his body, including his hard erection.
I pick up the blow-dryer and turn it off. My hair is dry enough to start styling. T looks at his watch again.
“Okay, T-dog,” I say. “Back off. I need some time to make myself beautiful.”
“You’re already beautiful.”
“Okay, rich-looking and beautiful.”
“Got it,” he says.
He grabs his garment bag and retreats back to the bathroom.
I throw my suitcase on the bed, and literally have the first hot flash of my life. The flashback is so strong, I actually feel his cock in my mouth. I’m full all over; the masculinity of him pressing in everywhere, scorching my body inside and out. His hands are gliding over my hips, my ass, slamming me into him.
I take a deep breath, dragging air into my throat, desperate to slow my frantic heart, which is beating 200 beats per minute.
He’s in the bathroom, right now, naked. Changing into some fancy suit. I look over at the door.
Maybe I should have taken him up on that five-minute offer.
Although, we’ve already done it twice today.
We have a job to do.
I have to focus. My life could depend on it. Our lives could depend on it. In my business there are no bad thieves, protectors, con artists, and assassins. But there are plenty of dead ones.
Those thoughts sober me right up, and I open my suitcase take out my dress.
I have a quick, grim picture pop into my head. I see myself, wearing a version of my evening dress. In the vision, it’s candy-apple red, although that’s not the color it is in reality. The dress bleeds, smearing blood on T, and all the guests around him.
So, so not good.
I shiver.
I shake my head to clear it.
Nerves.
Although I’ve never had nerves before.
My dress is burgundy-colored, with a plunging neckline, covered in sparkles. It’s almost ankle-length, but it has a very high slit up the left side, so I can easily reach my firearm, which I stow in my garter.
I have a black push-up bra that I wear under this dress, and it has a tight underwire. It’s a good thing, because it creates, in that magical little spot—the small slice of space between my cleavage and the roughly triangular-shaped area between the lower curves of my breast and the tight metal of the wire—a secure hidden pocket, which I’m going to need. I have to have somewhere very accessible to drop the ruby necklace.
I’ll be wearing a necklace of my own. It looks like tiny South American flute-pipes. It’s tranquilizer darts. I don’t plan on using them. But a girl should always have jewelry, right?
I put on a tiny feminine watch with small sapphires on it. It has a little compartment in it that can fit a poison pill. I don’t have one. Maybe next time.
Mr. Big comes out. I have to stop thinking of him as Mr. Big. Fuck someone once, the nickname is okay. But after three times, I really should start calling him T in my mind. But Mr. Big just seems so right.
He’s wearing a tux.
I give him a loud wolf whistle.
“Yeah, you should talk, baby. You look like a million bucks.”
“Wait until I get my hair and make-up done.”
He comes over and kisses me. “Do I have to?”
I laugh. I could get used to this. Oh boy, could I get used to this.
T pulls away from me and starts arming up. The tuxedo must be custom made for him because he is putting a lot of weaponry in there, and it never changes the smooth lines of his silhouette.
“You look totally hot,” I say. “You are totally hot. Sure you don’t want to hide a machete in there somewhere too?”
“I thought about it,” he says. “But I really prefer my bare hands anyway.”
“So do I.”
He smiles at me.
T looks at his watch again.
I go to the mirror and start on my make-up. I’m pretty quick with it. I put my hair up in a fancy chignon with a few artful curls pulled around my face. I put in sparkly hair sticks. They’re sharpened to lethal points. I don’t plan on using them. But always good to be prepared, right? They also make good lock picks. Fun for all.
I spritz a light spray of perfume in front of me and walk into it. I step into black sparkly flats. No high heels on a job. I’m head-to-toe glamour in my long dress with the high slit up the side. I do a quick spin in front of the mirror. None of my weapons show.
“I’m ready,” I say.
“You look incredible.”
“All in a day’s work.”
“Allons!”
I have no idea what the fuck that means. I don’t speak French. My first guess is ‘Let’s go!’. My second guess is, ‘What the hell, we’re professionals, let’s kick some ass’.
T takes my hand, and we go downstairs and out the door. It’s chilly. A light dusting of snow is falling. I should have brought a scarf or some kind of wrap.
There’s a limo waiting for us. I’m relieved, VERY relieved, that it’s not the same limo driver.
The drive to the mansion is short. No hanky panky. Ah well, maybe on the way back.
I wait for the limo driver to open the door and help me out of the car. I’m careful not to flash too much leg (or my gun) as I’m getting out.
The snow’s falling down heavier now.
T offers me his elbow.
With the sparkling golden lights from the house, the snow transformed the landscape into a fairyland. I’m a princess going to a ball with a prince.
A princess with a gun.
He leans down. “You’re the prettiest woman here,” he says.
“We’re not even in the door yet,” I say.
“I don’t have to be inside to know you’re the most amazing woman of all,” he says.
I’m sure my smile is more dazzling than all the jewels in the palace.
T hands his invitation to a liveried servant at the door, and we’re in. I look around. The place has more gold than Fort Knox. I mean this is like being inside a gold curlicue. Gold moldings. Gold stairway to the left. Gold vein in the marble floor. Gold fountain right in front of us.
“I’m going to go blind,” I whisper. “Where are my sunglasses?”
T laughs.
“I’m going to scrape some of this off and put it in my bra,” I whisper. “We won’t have to take another job for the rest of our lives.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” T whispers back.
“Let’s find our marks,” I say.
We enter the main ballroom, and before we get ten steps, a portly man in a black and white suit including top hat, tails, and a grey and red vest steps in front of us. He reminds me a little of the Penguin from the Batman movies.
“Lord Centrell,” T says.
“Mr. O’Brian.”
Huh. Mr. O’Brian. Interesting.
I think the Penguin will usher us over to his daughter, but he just glances in her direction. She’s walking down the gilded stairway. Mr. Penguin gets out of our way. T nods graciously to him, and we position ourselves so we will be right by her as she makes her grand entry.
She’s beautiful. Her haughty expression is condescending. I want to wipe it off her face.
I stand on tiptoe. I have to pull T’s head down toward mine to get my lips close enough to whisper in his ear. “Think we can convince her to ditch the party for a threesome? We’re supposed to keep her close, right?”
I feel the huge movement of T’s cheek as he smiles. “I think we’d have to earn about fifteen million more a year to be on her radar.”
“Doable,” I say, not realizing that might be a double entendre.
T smiles again.
Countess Centrell is only a few feet away from us, but from her expression, she’s looking for what she deems to be the important people, so she doesn’t see us.
“Let’s split up,” T says.
I nod. He slips away, and I fade into the background.
There must be seventy-five people in this place, not including the wait staff circulating. I look toward the doors. There’s a long line of guests waiting to come in. I don’t like this one bit.
The main ballroom is huge.
I look at my watch. Ten minutes after nine p.m. Fuck. I’m thinking that everyone is going to start arriving in a minute, and there will be three hundred people packed in this room any second.
I hate crowds. There’s only one thing I hate worse than crowds. Working in crowds.
I search out T. Mr. O’Brian is chatting up the fair Ms. Centrell. She looks enchanted.
Bitch.
I sigh. Oh well.
I guarantee you she didn’t have a rock your socks off limo ride with him today. She can keep her gold fountains, thank you very much. I’ll take hot limo sex over palatial home any day.
I scan the crowd.
I’ve got a bad, bad feeling about this.
More and more people pour in.
Sigh.
The music stops. Ut-oh. It reminds me of a joke. People are in a small village in South America. There’s constant native drums. A guy says, ‘This is awful, there’s drums playing all the time.’
The guide says, ‘You don’t want the drums to stop.’
‘Why? What happens when the drums stop?’
‘Bass solo.’
Sure enough, when the music stops, something worse happens. Political speeches.
God help me.
T never told me how much I’m getting paid for this job. It can’t possibly be enough. Luckily I know the physical compensation is going to be damn good. That gets my head back in the game.
I see T through the crowd.
Hello motivation.
I repress my smile, but just barely.
I see the other princess, Countess whatzerhername. Ranton. She’s wearing the most ostentatious silver dress I’ve ever seen. Strangely, it kind of looks good on her. She’s got a hell of a body. I guess if you’re really rich you can afford whatever it takes to make Barbie dolls envious.
I try to tune into the speeches.
Okay. Not.
I grab a little canapé thing off a passing silver tray. Ummmm. Yummy. Better than pigs-in-blanket. I’ll tell you that.
Okay. Focus.
Prickling at the back of my neck. Not good.
I look around.
Geez. Being short is not working to my advantage. The place is packed. All these rich people look the same. If there is someone here with more evil intention than putting down everyone else to make themselves look good, I can’t see it.
Mercifully, the speeches end.
The music starts again. I’m hungry. Are they going to serve dinner at this shindig? I bet they are. Bonus.
T winds his way through the crowd toward me.
“Acquisition time,” he whispers.
I nod. “Roger that,” I whisper back.
He disappears into the crowd.
How can a guy who’s about six foot six and two hundred and thirty pounds blend?
I carefully push through the crowd looking for brighter-than-the moon silver and do my ‘I’m invisible’ thing until I’m behind Ranton.
I see T.
He walks into her. He knocks her over and catches her, and it’s even more dramatic than when he did it to me in practice. He spills her drink.
“Hey!” she yells.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you. Although how I could have missed you…”
She’s a goner.
I can’t see her expression, because I’m behind her, but he looks spellbound. He holds her off balance for what seems like a long second in time, an eternity maybe, and raises her back until she’s fully standing so slowly it’s like time actually bends around them.
T’s eyes dilate. From where I am I can see how his lips are slightly parted. His chest heaves. His hands slowly caress her sides. He tucks a stray hair behind her neck.
“What’s your name?” he rasps. He sounds like he can hardly breathe. One hand is on her low back as if to steady her. One hand gently touches the back of her neck.
Then her necklace is off. He’s holding it out to me.
Quickly I take it, and drop it down the front of my dress.
“Monique Ranton,” she says.
“Miles Spencer O’Brian,” T says with the hint of the sexiest highlander accent I’ve ever heard.
Shit. Here’s where I need to get the fake necklace back on her.
T’s eyes smolder like he would give the world to able to sit at her feet.
“Ranton,” he whispers. His hands are moving, distraction. I take the fake necklace out of my small purse and put it around her, trusting that whatever he’s doing it will make what I’m doing feel like a caress. “That’s a name of Dukes and Duchesses, isn’t it?” T asks in his lilting brogue.
She nods. With shaking fingers I work the clasp.
I hear T. “I would give a million dollars to be worthy of you.” He lifts her hand and kisses her knuckles.
Got it. I start to glide away.
“Trust me,” T says, “Bumping into you is the highlight of my evening, if not the decade.”
I’m farther away, but I think I hear T say, “Fair lady,” and the Countess say, “Oh my.”
I go straight to the ladies room to do a minute of deep breathing.
I come out after only a few seconds. After all, I’m still on the job.
I see T for a second, and he gives me a quick smile before he turns his attention to an older looking couple.
The hard part of the job is over. The rest should be a piece of cake.
There’s a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel worse, not better. And it’s not about stealing the necklace, because we’re returning it to the rightful owner, Monique’s aunt.
So why do I feel so jumpy? I look around the room.
Blah, blah, blah. Rich people.
I look up to the balcony. T’s third man is up there. I look for a guy with very shrewd eyes, but they all have the same expressions. They’re all dressed to put the gross national product of smaller nations to shame, and the men all look like sharks looking for a meal. They’re all watching the people on the floor. So, I can’t tell.
I want to get out of here. And I mean I want to get out of here, badly.