Title: Dangerous Love
Author: Riley Edwards
Romantic Suspense Thriller
Dangerous Love is the latest romantic suspense thriller from USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Riley Edwards. New series, new steamy, hot heroes. Welcome to TAKEBACK.
One night. No names. Two hearts forever changed.
There wasn’t a lot that surprised me. My years in the Navy taught me a lot, my years hunting human traffickers taught me the rest. Meeting a beautiful woman in a bar and spending the night with her should’ve been a blip on my radar. Instead, I spent years trying to forget her. In the middle of a rescue operation, fate dropped her back into my life, but there was a twist—she wasn’t alone.
I lived and breathed romance. I was a true believer in love-at-first-sight-happily-ever-afters. Then I found myself staring at a sexy stranger across a crowded bar, fell in love, and spent six hours living out my wildest fantasies. But I ran when I learned love at first sight stole your breath and left you afraid of a broken heart.
Brooklyn Saunders has a secret to tell. One that will change everything for Rhode. One that will bind them together or separate them forever.
Rhode Daley has one shot at building the family he always wanted. That is, until his life implodes and his worst nightmare comes true. Can he repair what time has broken and save their futures?
Takeback is an off-the-books, special operations task force composed of military contractors and US Marshals. Their mission is simple—to save those who have been taken.
Those were my thoughts when I glanced up from my laptop to find the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my life walk into the bar.
Now, some may think I was pretty lame sitting in a bar at eleven o’clock with my laptop in front of me. But I wasn’t. My life was pretty damn awesome. And it really wasn’t a bar-bar it was a hotel bar and I’d only come down to work because I was starving and I’d learned the day before the Park Lounge made the best cheeseburger I’d ever had. The bacon was extra crispy, they were generous with the condiments, and they used extra-sharp cheddar.
The cheeseburger was important to note—that was what had drawn me down to the bar. That, and my best friend Letty was in our room trying to sleep and I had work to do. So, I wasn’t sitting in the corner all by myself because I was an introvert, boring, or didn’t like to have a good time. I was just a hungry workaholic.
The man made his way to the table and that was when I noticed he wasn’t alone. And I swear on all things holy—a sack of my favorite smut books, may they burn to ash, my ereader explode, and my ability to read to be stolen—three equally good-looking men followed the breath-stealing, butterfly inducing man.
Then they sat down at a high-top table right next to the booth I was sitting in. Right. Next. To. Me.
One could say I was a tad dramatic. I loved a good story and when I couldn’t find one in real life, I read them. Luckily for me, reading books was my job. I was an audiobook narrator—I brought authors’ words to life. I breathed life into their characters. Best job ever!
But right then, I didn’t need to open a book or close my eyes and daydream. Oh, no, there was a real-life, walking, talking fantasy—or should I say, four fantasies come to lifeless than five feet away.
This was just too damn good to keep to myself.
I looked back down at my keyboard, saved the manuscript I’d been making notes on, and pulled up Messenger. I found Letty’s contact and started typing.
Mayday. Mayday. Get dressed and come down to the bar.
Letty didn’t answer.
Wake up. You have to come down here.
A minute that felt like an eternity later, she responded.
Four of the hottest men I’ve ever seen are sitting five feet from me. Come quick.
No. Tired. And today, at least ten times you pointed out a hot male model you said was gonna be the father of your children. That’s a lot of baby daddies, Brooklyn. A lot. Think about your poor va-jay-jay popping out all those babies and finish your burger and come to bed.
So, maybe Letty wasn’t exaggerating. But, in my defense, we were at a book signing. Not any ol’ regular book signing—a romance signing. And not a sweet, wholesome romance book signing. Nope. These authors had it going on; they wrote about over-the-top alpha men who took charge in the bedroom, knew their way around a woman’s lady parts, were protective, bossy, but still sweet and respectful. In other words—totally fictional, not real, made up to give women like me something good to get lost in. And at this signing, there’d been cover models roaming the convention.
My day had been spent swooning. Models, authors, my reader friends. Great day.
My life revolved around books. Not only did I narrate them I also worked in Letty’s book store aptly named, Smutties. The store was nirvana, solely dedicated to all things romance. Mostly she carried independent authors but in the last year, some of the big publishers had taken notice and wanted their books in Smutties. I had a small recording studio in the back so I could pull double-duty helping her in the store and recording when she didn’t need me.
I was living my dream. It was awesome.
But life could always get better, as evidence five feet away suggested.
Like you weren’t drooling. Get. Down. Here. And bring my phone so I can sneak a picture. P.S. thank you for thinking of my “poor” vagina.
I’m not bringing you your phone, you crazy stalker. Stop working and go to bed. You were up at five I don’t know how you’re still awake.
You’re missing out.
You’re a crazy person. Leave me alone. I’m going back to sleep.
I closed Messenger and sat as quietly as I could so I could eavesdrop. I mean, what else was there to do? When four hot men sat close and you didn’t have the gumption to approach you listened to their conversation and filled in the blanks with your imagination. I could build a whole story around each of them.
By the looks of them, they were not businessmen. Three out of four had beards. Not straggly Grizzly Adams beards, not super-groomed either, somewhere in between. The one that had caught my attention had stubble but not full growth like the others. The color scheme of their clothes was interesting too. Tan, olive drab, black, and plaid. Three of them were wearing a variation of the same color tan pants. Mr. Stubble was wearing olive drab pants and a plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up. One wore a black tee, the other two also wore plaid long-sleeved shirts. Thank goodness the plaid pattern was different or they’d look like weirdos.
I was still in the process of my creepy perusal when I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle. My gaze went back to Mr. Stubble and he was staring at me. No expression. Face blank. Just his eyes locked onto mine.
Nope, not a businessman. No way. Not even the savviest, most ambitious, cut-throat CEO could have a stare so intense. Law enforcement or military. And by the way they were dressed, the air of authority around them, I’d guess law enforcement. Further, we were in a hotel a few miles away from Dulles International Airport, just outside of D.C. so narrowing that down, it wouldn’t be a stretch they were military, feds, or marshals.
Or perhaps I’d read too many books and they lived in the area, this bar was convenient, and they were meeting for a drink. Maybe they were mechanics. Which would be hot, too. Who doesn’t love a man who has strong hands and can fix things? I’d bet Mr. Stubble could make my engine purr like a kitten.
Did I seriously just think that?
Letty was right. I needed sleep. My overactive imagination had been in hyperdrive all day. I was over-worked and under-sexed. I needed an orgasm that was not self-induced stat. As soon as I got back to Idaho I was getting on that.
But first I needed to tear my gaze away from the hottest man I’d ever seen. The problem with that was he was holding me captive. The butterflies had stopped fluttering their velvety soft wings and they’d started rioting. They were bumping into each other, making a ruckus that made my belly feel funny and gave me goosebumps.
One of his dark eyebrows quirked up and it felt like a question. No, it felt like a dare.
Now I couldn’t look away. So I returned the brow lift and one-upped him with a smirk.
That earned me a smile that was so sexy my panties caught fire. Actually, they didn’t burst into flames, they dampened.
Totally drenched from a smile.
What can I say, it was a really great smile that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. Eyes that were so dark from where I sat they looked black. Everything about him was dark. His hair, his eyebrows, his eyes, even the way he stared at me was dark.
Dark and decadent.
His lips twitched. His jaw dipped. Then he looked over at his friend and I suddenly felt cold. I wanted his eyes back. I wanted his attention on me and only on me.
Feeling the loss of his gaze was ridiculous. In an effort to tamp down my urge to crawl into a stranger’s lap and rub myself all over him I glanced back at my screen and tried to focus.
I mean, who would do that? In this day and age what person in their right mind would even think about approaching a stranger in a bar?
Me. Right at this moment, I would do that.
Yep. Under-sexed. That’s what it had to be. It was official, I’d read too many books. And since any good Smut Bibliophile knew, there was no such thing. My life must’ve been coming to an end. There was no other reason for my reaction.
I was in lust with a stranger.
When my brain came back on station, I heard, “We’ll meet the team in South Carolina and go from there.”
“How many are they thinking?” The smooth, rich, silky voice washed over me and my gaze sliced back to the stranger. Sure enough, the voice belonged to him.
It was now one-hundred-percent certified Mr. Stubble was the sexiest man alive.
“Thirty. Maybe forty,” one of the other men said.
“The locals have a location,” another man put in.
Something else was murmured but I didn’t catch it. I was in a lust-induced haze like I’d never experienced. My pulse pounded and all sorts of crazy thoughts galloped through my mind.
Me, Brooklyn Saunders—never having done it before—would absolutely follow this stranger to his room, participate in my very first one-night-stand-with-a-stranger, and bang his brains out. One hundred percent I’d do it. I’d live out every fantasy, I’d feel no remorse, I’d feel no guilt, and then I’d tuck away the memory and relive it as often as I could.
That was if Mr. Stubble, Sexiest Man Alive, was good in bed. And there was no way he wasn’t; the universe wouldn’t be so screwed up to give a man that good-looking a small wanker. Or a big one with no skill.
My gaze dropped from his profile to his hands. Oh, yeah, he had great fingers and nice forearms. I continued my perusal up to his biceps. Though he was wearing long sleeves I could still see the bulge. I was not a small woman but he’d have no problems hoisting me into his arms. Of course, I’d wrap my legs around his waist in an effort to assist with weight distribution. Oh, who the hell was I kidding? I’d wrap my legs around him so he could fuck me against the wall. Only after that was checked off the fantasy to-do list would I take him to the bed. I wondered if he’d let me ride him, or if he was the sort of man who would take charge and hold me, prisoner, while he did dirty, filthy things to my body. I’d be his willing captive or I’d ride him until I was breathless and exhausted. Either way, I wouldn’t complain. I’d feel no shame begging him to take me harder. Though I doubted I’d need to beg or give instructions to a man like him.
He oozed confidence and masculinity. It lingered in the air. I inhaled it. It surrounded me. My body knew what it wanted. My mind was fully on board. I kept my heart carefully tucked away, understanding it had no place in this adventure.
“Would you like company?”
Smooth, like warm honey.
I blinked and lifted my gaze to find the stranger standing next to my booth. My eyes flicked to the now-empty table where he and his friends had been sitting.
How long have I been zoned out?
I didn’t care how long. I was just hoping “company” was a euphuism for wild sex. I didn’t ask for clarification I just hoped I was reading the look on his face right or this would be awkward.
“I would love company.”
I closed my laptop, slid it into my bag, made sure I’d signed the credit card slip, then started to skootch out of the booth.
The man’s lips twitched and he held out his hand.
“Your room or mine?”
Yep. It was a euphuism, all right. Wild, fantasy-fueled sex, here I come.
I looked down at his hand, placed mine into his, and savored the warmth.
“You have great hands,” I whispered.
I was tugged out of the booth to my feet, the man lowered his head, then a hair’s breadth away from my ear he whispered, “You sure about this?”
A chill ran down my spine and my nipples tightened.
I guess he liked my answer because the next thing I knew he snatched my bag out of my hand and was pulling me through the bar. Holding my bag for me was a nice touch but unnecessary. So was the pulling part; I’d already decided I’d follow this man straight through the gates of hell if he was one iota as good as he looked.
Yes, I was lust drunk and willing to sell my soul to the devil to spend one night with a man I’d never see again.
He turned left, walked halfway down the hall, stopped in front of a door, and looked down at me with his dark eyes. Something stole over me. Lust, sex fantasies, wet panties, tingling nipples aside he had beautiful eyes. And right then they were kind and gentle.
“You still sure?”
He inserted his key then pushed open the door but didn’t go through.
“No names,” I rasped, totally unashamed.
He graced me with another panty-melting smile and gestured me through the door. After that, there was no more talking. He’d found better uses for his mouth. One could say, this beautiful stranger was an action man.
He was better than any fantasy.
He was rough and gentle.
He kissed, caressed, and licked every inch of me. He nibbled, bit, and pinched. He fucked me against the wall, on the bed, in the shower, and on the floor. I sucked him off, rode him, and yanked his hair while his face was between my legs.
It was the wildest night of my life.
He was the best I’d ever had.
And in the morning when he kissed me goodbye I was having a hard time reminding my heart we couldn’t keep him. I struggled not to ask him for a name. I fought back the temptation to ask for another night—or a week—or forever.
But in the end, my sensible side won out.
I wrapped my arms around him and told him I’d never forget a single second of our night together. He gave me a soft, slow sweet kiss that made my heart melt and cemented my decision never to see him again.
Truth be told, I was a romantic. I believed in love at first sight. I knew soulmates existed. One more night with this man and I’d tumble headfirst from lust to love. I was already halfway there. It was not the sex, it was the way his fingertips had softly traced the flowers tattooed up my arm. It was the way his face softened when I explained the meaning of each one. It was the way he’d kissed each blossom. It was the way he smiled and laughed. We’d had mind-bending sex, but we’d also connected.
“Ocean blue,” he murmured and brushed his lips over my cheek.
I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t ask.
I felt no shame walking out of his hotel room.
I felt no guilt taking what I wanted and living out my wildest dreams.
I felt no remorse.
And I didn’t lie—I never forgot a single second. Not one. Every day I was reminded I’d had the best night of my life with a stranger.
But I did have one regret—I should’ve asked him his name.
Riley Edwards is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author, wife, and military mom. Riley was born and raised in Los Angeles but now resides on the east coast with her fantastic husband and children.
Riley writes heart-stopping romance with sexy alpha heroes and even stronger heroines. Riley’s favorite genres to write are romantic suspense and military romance.
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