Wicked For YouWicked Lovers, Book 10
Her longtime crush protects—and pleasures—her as a past danger closes in.
Ever since he rescued her from a dangerous kidnapper, Mystery Mullins has wanted Axel Dillon. When he returned her to her Hollywood father and tabloid life, she was grateful…and a little in love. Mystery wasn’t ready to let Axel go, even after the soldier gently turned her away because, at nineteen, she was too young.
Now, six years later, Mystery is grown, with a flourishing career and a full life—but she’s still stuck on Axel. Disguised, she propositions him in a bar, and the night they spend together is beyond her wildest dreams. Mystery steels herself to walk away—except the sheets are barely cold when her past comes back to haunt her.
Once he realizes Mystery isn’t the stranger he thought, Axel is incensed and intrigued. But when it’s clear she’s in danger, he doesn’t hesitate to become her protector—and her lover—again. And as the two uncover a secret someone is willing to kill for, Axel is determined to claim Mystery’s heart before a murderer silences her for good.
Wicked Lovers SERIES
Mystery Mullins had finally had enough. After six and a half years of carrying this burning torch, she intended to snuff it out tonight.
The door to the run-down beer bar creaked when she opened it. As soon as she looked inside, she truly wished she hadn’t. The late-afternoon sunlight cast rays into the dark room, highlighting dingy checkerboard floors, a crack in the plastic face of the old juke- box, and a faded wooden bar. Pictures of beaches, bikini babes, and motorcycles lined the walls. In faded aqua paint on driftwood, a framed piece of “art” proclaimed it’s five o’clock somewhere.
In front of her, a bank of TVs hung from the ceiling, some facing the door, others away to serve the patrons on the far side of the U-shaped bar. She scanned the room, glancing over the two-dozen loners, mostly male, nursing their beers. Between the dimness and the obstruction of the various flat-screens, she couldn’t see all their faces.
She’d never stepped foot in a place like this. Trendy hot spots where one’s name had to be on the list, sure—when someone twisted her arm. But a dive? She winced. The reality was, if she wanted to scratch her itch for the one man she couldn’t seem to purge from her system so she could move on, this was where she needed to be.
Because he was here.
A gust of hot wind assaulted her through the still-open door. The heat already felt like the worst of a London summer, despite the fact that May in Dallas had barely begun. Or maybe she was just flushed and nervous.
An ineffectual swamp cooler clattered as it tried to adjust the temperature inside to something bearable but failed. Mystery wiped at the fine film of perspiration at her temple, flipped the faux hair out of her face, and hoped like hell this scheme worked.
The patrons in the bar were beginning to stare, not as if they recognized her, thank goodness. But what if he did? Utter, humiliating disaster. She’d planned this disguise so he’d never know her identity. The auburn wig with bangs cloaked her dark hair. Color contacts morphed hazel eyes into a stunning blue. A makeup artist Mystery knew from one of her father’s previous movies had worked his magic to make her cheekbones appear rounder, her jaw softer. During her brief time with her crush, she’d never had the luxury of wearing a shred of makeup. If he’d seen pictures of her since they’d gone their separate ways, he knew she usually dolled up and wore Chanel or Prada for the cameras. Today, she’d donned ratty jeans leftover from her few days in college, a tight Hooters tank top, and a pair of wedged flip flops. The press had never photographed her this dressed down. Everything about her should appear different. He couldn’t possibly recognize her now.
But what if he did?
Mystery shook her head and told herself to stop dithering. She hadn’t stepped foot on U.S. soil in over a half dozen years, and he had no reason to suspect she’d come to his home turf now. Appointments back in London meant she could only be here for a week. The private investigator she’d hired had sworn he was still single and had just entered the bar alone a few minutes ago. It was now or never.
Because she’d never moved on from her teenage crush. She’d ten times rather write off her feelings as gratitude and stupid hero worship. After all, he’d saved her life. But if that’s all she felt, the ache for him should have worn off long before now. She would have stopped comparing him to other men she dated. Since he wasn’t going to fall desperately in love with her, she simply had to get him out of her system and move on, leaving him none the wiser.
“You need some help or you just want to let all the hot air in?” As she stood frozen in the doorway, the young bartender looked at her as if she must be on the stupid side.
“Sorry,” Mystery murmured, easing farther into the joint and scanning the room once more.
A couple of Duck Dynasty wannabes occupied the booth in the corner. A woman in a skimpy halter top sat with them, pouring tequila into a shot glass shoved into her artificially enhanced cleavage. More than one dived for the booze. Mystery halted in her tracks.
This place certainly underscored the fact that she and the man she yearned for hailed from different walks of life. But that didn’t matter. She’d only have him for a night.
She prayed that was all she needed.
Mystery’s stomach knotted. Though she hadn’t seen him since that last fateful night years ago, her nerves seriously annoyed her. She tried not to allow anything to faze her anymore. Not paparazzi, not walking the red carpet at the BAFTA awards with her A-list father, not even appearing on TV.
But Axel Dillon . . . Even the thought of him turned her inside out.
Mystery glanced around again, easing farther inside. Some biker types in the far corner playing pool eyed her. The bartender still stared down his pierced nose at her. Three cops huddled together all turned and focused on her. Did they think she was casing the place for a robbery? She had to stop standing in the middle of the room like an idiot. Take a seat and order a drink.
Finally, her head forced her body to obey, and she eased into a little booth near the back. Once she’d seated herself, everyone around her started talking again. And from her new vantage point, she could see the back half of the bar, previously obscured by the wall of televisions.
There he sat, absently staring at ESPN and sipping a beer, his profile strong. As usual, his rugged face was unreadable. He still kept his dark-blond hair military short. And he still looked like the side of a mountain. Somewhere around six foot five, he’d always been built big, but in the last few years, she’d swear he’d put on another slab of muscle. His tight black T-shirt hugged every hard swell and lean dip, tapering past a flat belly to narrow hips. She had to hold in a sigh. Even a single glance of him made her heart knock against her ribs and everything below her waist tingle. Mystery swallowed.
He didn’t once look her way. Somehow, she’d hoped their stares would lock. He would approach her, want her, and whisk her away for a spectacular night of unbridled sex that would blow away both her panties and her mind. But right now, he clearly had no idea she existed.
On shaky knees, she stood again and headed in his direction. She tried not to stare. A glance up at the television proved he watched a recap of a pro basketball game. With a grunt, he glanced down into the neck of his beer bottle as she slid onto the empty stool beside him.
Now that he was so near, Mystery could feel his body heat, smell him—rugged earth, cut wood, musk. Damn, being this close made her feel both safe and weak.
“Something on your mind?” He turned to her, his stare expectant.
She searched his expression and didn’t see a hint of recognition on his large, blunt face. What a relief. But the cleft in his chin and his bright blue eyes still made her feel weak and wanting. The instant chemical attraction she’d felt years ago hadn’t waned in the least.
“There is.” She mimicked the British accents she’d been surrounded with since she’d fled the U.S.—and him—over six years ago.
Her assertion obviously surprised him. Though he narrowed his eyes, they pierced her. “I’ll bite. Lay it on me.”
The bartender chose that moment to come around and plunk a napkin in front of her. “Now that you found a seat, you want a drink?”
A glass of vino sounded heavenly. “Do you have a wine list, please?”
He snorted. “No. I got three types: red, white, and pink.”
Mystery paused. She hadn’t expected anything private label, but surely more of a selection than that.
“Is the white a pinot grigio?”
The bartender looked as if he was losing patience. “I don’t know what kind that is, but the jug of white I have is as close as I’ve got. You want some or not?”
That could be seriously terrible.
“Then I’ll have a glass of water, please.” Better to keep a clear head, anyway. “Thank you.”
As he turned and grabbed a glass, the bartender shook his head and muttered something to himself. Mystery really didn’t want to know what.
“I’m not sure what threw him off more, your accent or your request.” The corner of Axel’s mouth lifted in amusement, giving her a flash of dimples.
She’d forgotten the way his smile could soften his harsh face. She grinned back. “He seemed quite ruffled.”
A moment later, the young, pierced guy set a glass in front of her with lots of ice and a bit of water, sans lemon. She blinked, and her colored contacts jabbed her eyes with a reminder of their existence. Or maybe it was a warning that her plan would fail spectacularly.
“So do you,” Axel said. “I won’t point out that I’ve never seen you here, but I’ll guess you’ve never been to a place like this.”
“Never,” she admitted. “What gave me away?”
He chuffed. “Leaving the door open so you could gape with barely disguised horror was a start. I particularly liked the way you turned slightly green when you stared at the guys about to do body shots with Trina.” He nodded to the corner where the bearded men and the woman in the halter top all laughed. “So why are you here?”
She’d forgotten how observant he could be and how accurately he could draw conclusions. He did it in an instant, as if nothing in the world shocked him anymore. The world still shocked her all the time.
She hadn’t, however, forgotten how direct he was. “Curious,” she lied and held in a wince at her lame answer.
He shrugged. “Let me try another way: The place is more than half empty, so why did you sit next to me?”
Brutally direct, she mentally corrected.
Mystery gaped for an answer. “Why not?”
In retrospect, she could have been a little less obvious and a little more coy in choosing a seat. Maybe she should have sat a few stools away, ordered some terrible wine, and seen if he struck up a conversation. But she’d taken one look at him, and any thought of careful or logical had flown out the window.
He leveled her with a disbelieving stare. “That’s all you’ve got? You couldn’t even have come up with a good lie?”
Not really. She could have gone the “You look familiar” route, but that would have been too close to the truth. As far as she could see, that only left her one tactic.
“You’re very attractive. Pardon me for being interested.”
A little smile lit up his eyes before he took another swig of beer. “I didn’t say you being close upset me. You’re attractive yourself.” He stared a moment longer, then glanced down at his empty beer before he shifted his attention to her untouched glass. “You sure I can’t get you something stronger to drink? I can’t believe a girl like you would risk life and limb to come to this dive for a swig of water.”
Truth was, drinking didn’t hold a lot of appeal for her. In the past, she’d pretended otherwise, but . . . “While I appreciate the offer, I’m actually not interested in alcohol.” She forced herself to meet his inquisitive stare. “Would you like to find somewhere more private to . . .”
“Talk?” He gave her an ironic curl of his lips.
“No.” She sucked in a shaking breath. “To fuck. Would you be interested?”
“…smoking hot sex and intrigue.”
-RT Book Club
Top Pick! “Powerful stuff. A must read…”
“A passionate, addictive, and sexy whirlwind…that will reach all of your senses and touch every part of your heart.”
-Shayna Renee’s Spicy Reads
“…one of the best entries in Shayla Black's Wicked Lovers series. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”
“This book had it all; scorching hot romance, danger, intrigue and mystery.”
-Reading in Pajamas
5 Stars! “A mysterious, sexy, fun story!”
– Give Me Books
5 Shooting Stars! “The story was amazing, sexy and had me at the edge of my seat.”
-Marie's Tempting Reads
5 Stars! “…intense situations, smoldering lust and some emotional moments that melt your heart.”
“Erotic, filled with action, and written so well.”
-Book Reader Chronicles
5 Stars! “Good build up and storyline. This is one of Shayla’s best!
-Shameless Book Club
Recommended! “There is nothing better than alpha hero with a soft spot that only the heroine can touch.”
-Ramblings From This Chick Blog
“Amazing Story! If you love protective alpha men, complex feisty women, hot sex and a bit of a thriller then you don’t want to miss the Wicked Lovers series or Wicked for You.”
-Smut and Bonbons
“A steamy, wicked, can’t-put-it-down read.”
Intriguing! “A book with phenomenal balance of sexy and mystery.”
-Books, Chocolate and Lipgloss
5 Stars! “…filled with thrills and excitement, sensual delights, fiery passion and sexy characters that readers can’t help but fall in love with.”
5 Smoldering Stars! “It’s sensual, edgy, and unpredictable.”
-Two Sassy Chicks
5 Hearts! “I absolutely loved their story.”
-She Hearts Books
“I love this series!! Each book is better than the previous and I can not wait for the next!!”
5 Stars! “Enticing! I couldn’t get enough.”
-Temping Sexy Thoughts Book Blog
5 Stars! “I really have nothing but good things to tell you about this book. It has lots of mystery, suspense, romance and kink to it.”
-In Between the Pages
Highly Recommended! “The story has laughs, kidnapping, murder, suspense, twist and turns, seduction, secrets, lies, betrayal, and heartbreak. …a great read.”
-Renee Entress’s Blog
“Heart-pounding action, nail-biting suspense and sizzling hot BDSM romance, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
-Dirty Girl Romance
5 Stars! “Sultry suspense! Pulse pounding passion twined with edgy suspense.”
-Herding Cats & Burning Soup