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Excerpt: Whirlpool

Excerpt: Whirlpool

Book 2: Forces of Nature Series

Chapter One

A shot of lust hit him hard as he looked into the brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen. Jamie cleared his throat, striving to distract his body before his involuntary reaction became too noticeable.

“Can I help you?” The blonde held on to the door, blinking up at him, her soft voice tickling the nerves along the back of his neck.

Could she help him? Holy hell, he wished she were the reason he’d come. “I’m looking for Ms. Colten. I had an appointment to categorize the artifacts her late husband had gathered.”

A confused expression crossed the young woman’s face before she blasted him with an earthshaking smile. “Oh, you mean Lady Victoria. She doesn’t live here anymore. She’s moved into an apartment in town. Ms. Alexia lives here now, and her husbands aren’t dead.”

Jamie dragged his gaze off her and the amazing objects visible just over her shoulder in the background. The house overflowed with enticing treasures, but he needed to concentrate a little harder until the preliminary welcome was over. He must have misheard her.

“Could I speak with Ms. Alexia then?” he asked.

“She’s on her honeymoon. I’m watching the house. What’s your name?”

He stared into her pure, sweet face, absolutely mesmerized.

“Jamie Powell.” Skin like porcelain, delicate eyelashes. He patted his pockets absently. “I have ID if you’d like. I was hired to do an inventory and assessment on Blain Colten’s diving collection. Joshua Marley contracted me. Is he here?”

She hesitated for a second. “No, he’s gone too. Ummm, he’s…traveling.”

A door opened behind the woman and a man easily six foot seven stepped through. Rock-solid muscles flexed as he strode closer. His head was shaved clean and between him and the woman Jamie felt like he’d walked onto the set of a Beautiful People magazine shoot. He’d never seen a more attractive pair.

“Chelsea, did you need me to pick up any groceries while I’m in town?” The soft expression on the man’s face tightened and his voice sharpened as his dark brown eyes focused on Jamie. “Can I help you?”

Jamie wondered what he’d done to annoy the giant. He managed to pull a business card from his pocket and present it.

“He said he’s here to do an assessment,” Chelsea offered.

“I’m looking for Joshua Marley or Alexia Colten. I’m supposed to work on a marine-artifact collection.” Jamie found himself staring at the woman again. A faint scent of perfume wafted over and his mouth watered. Damn, everything about her was attractive.

The tall newcomer stepped between them.

“They’re on their honeymoon,” the giant answered briskly. He gently nudged Chelsea aside, prodding her in the direction of the open room behind him. She wandered backward from the door, her gaze meeting Jamie’s as she gave a mischievous wink. His heartbeat increased. He returned her smile before glancing up to see a disapproving glare drilling into him.

Jamie shook his head, partly to dislodge the images that had filled it—all involving him and the blue-eyed beauty—and partly because he really was having difficulties hearing today. “I thought Ms. Colten was on her honeymoon and Mr. Marley was traveling?”

The other man stared at him. Measuring him. Jamie stood his ground and stared back, refusing to fold under the intimidation. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Thinking erotic thoughts about the blonde didn’t mean he’d actually trespassed.


The giant thrust out a hand. “Braden Marley. I think I saw something about you on the schedule they left. Come on in and I’ll take a look.” He yanked open the door and gestured toward the living room. Jamie strolled in, his jaw falling open as he observed the piles and piles of artifacts that lined the walls of the rooms and littered every available space. Barnacle-encrusted trucks, shiny coins and shipware. Books, boxes, Japanese glass floats and more. He’d been to many homes with nautical collections, but never one as full as this. There was a literal treasure trove within the house walls. First glance revealed a potential fortune buried amidst the usual garbage. He rotated in a circle, his mind racing to calculate where to start, how to best work through the sea of items. He rubbed his hands together, forcing down the laughter of delight rising from deep inside.

This was going to be a job he could really enjoy.

“Are you staying for long, Jamie?” He jerked in surprise to find Chelsea standing next to him, near enough that the heat of her body brushed him, scalding his senses. Her eyes widened as if shocked to find they were so close. She stepped back and stumbled. He grasped her arms, halting her fall and pulling her back to vertical. Her palms rested gently on his chest and something powerful overtook him and wormed its way into his brain. He wanted to tackle her and take her down on the nearest surface, bury himself in her warmth and softness. She whimpered, an expression of longing crossing her face. She slid her hands upward to clutch his neck and he involuntarily leaned closer.

Their bodies touched and a groan of desire escaped him. Bright eyes met his and she lifted her chin in invitation before drawing their mouths together.

The taste of her shot through him like one-hundred-proof whiskey. His senses spun and his tongue darted out to dip again into the sweet nectar of her mouth. She kissed back, their tongues dueling, hands tugging them tighter together until there was no way she could be unaware of his erection swelling against her belly.

He clasped her close, feasting on her mouth, unable to stop the driving desire to consume her that raced through him. She stepped backward and he followed her siren call, falling together onto the overstuffed sofa. She hummed with approval, nipping at his chin, licking his earlobe.

Jamie dropped his teeth to her neckline, sucking, biting, feeling the urgent need to mark her. He tugged at the waist of her shirt, his fingers brushing skin that seared him with heat, the compulsion to join with her growing sharper, pulsing throughout his entire body.

“Chelsea!” Braden barked from across the room.

The outburst broke through the sexual haze enveloping him, and Jamie shot upright. He yanked his hands back, scrambling away from where Chelsea sprawled on the sofa, her hair rumpled, her top crawling up her belly to expose where his hands had slipped under the soft material in an attempt to cup her breasts. His mind swirled with confusion and a healthy dose of lust.

What the hell was he doing? “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I’m—”

“It’s okay, Jamie.” Braden clasped his arm and dragged him into the kitchen, muttering curses under his breath. When the door slammed shut behind them, Braden continued in a far calmer and gentler tone. “I found you on the calendar. How about you start tomorrow? I know Alexia hoped you’d be able to sort out what’s valuable and what can be given away before she gets home. While her Gram didn’t mind living in the chaos, Alexia is more organized.”

Jamie heard all the words, but they jangled in his mind, twisted and confusing. What had just happened?

Braden held out a glass of water, watching him with a piercing gaze. “Here, have a drink. You must have gotten too much sun en route. Jaffrey’s Cove is a bit off the beaten track.”

Jamie accepted the glass and sipped slowly. He didn’t think there was anything physically wrong with him, except for wanting the woman he’d met only moments before. Wanting her badly enough he was tempted to return to the other room and take her, kissing the mouth that had pouted at him and Braden as they retreated. Rip up her tank top to suckle the breasts that arched against him as they’d tumbled onto the couch. Bury his face between her legs and…

Damn. Maybe there was something wrong with him—this was not his usual behavior. While he liked the ladies well enough, he was a reasonable man. Attacking a woman at a potential job site was not his modus operandi, especially not in front of an obvious guardian the size of a tanker.

He rubbed a hand over his forehead then gave a tentative shrug. “I’m really sorry. There’s no excuse for my behavior. I’m thankful you didn’t throw me out of the house. I have no idea what came over me.”

Braden gave a wry smile. “Seriously, forget about it. No harm done, and trust me, it wasn’t your fault. I’ll make sure Chelsea behaves herself while you’re around.”

Chelsea rolled off the couch and fled down the hall to her temporary bedroom, spinning past the doorway and clutching the dresser as her heart continued to race. Every nerve was sensitized to the point of aching and she took long, slow breaths to regain control.

Damn merfolk hormones were going to kill her.

Once her heart rate dropped, she slipped to the door to listen for the men to return from the kitchen into the main part of the house. Even though he wasn’t speaking to her, Braden’s deep husky voice made her shiver. The stranger—Jamie—answered and she peeked out her door to try and sense if he was okay. Guilt flushed her. She hadn’t intended to hit him with the sexual mojo, but damn it, she was so frustrated it had leaked out involuntarily. She’d never had an accident like that before, and she regretted her actions, unintended as they were. He’d responded way faster and harder than the last human she’d been around. The chain reaction between them had been impossible to shut down.

Curiosity made her sneak out to watch the men wander the living room. She leaned on the wall in the shadows, staying out of sight but enjoying the view. The visual feast not twenty feet from her was mouth-watering. The two men were very different, but the contrast was appealing and for a minute she was tempted to go and try to seduce them both.

Holy crap. Her out-of-control libido was talking again. Insanity lurked from staying in the same house as Braden, trying not to let him know how much she really wanted him.

She let her gaze trail over the object of her obsession. For ten years she’d watched him. From her first crush as a teen, to her current insistent urge to jump his bones, there was more to appreciate every time she looked. His broad shoulders stretched his shirt to the point of ripping the seams. His sheriff’s uniform fit to a tee, snug in the most interesting places, his crotch drawing her attention even when he wasn’t aroused. His solid thigh muscles flexed the fabric as he led Jamie to another section of the room, pointing something out along the wall. Tall, smooth, infinitely edible. Damn, she wanted a piece of him even though he was the stubbornest son of a bitch alive.

Jamie knelt to touch a pile of books, and Chelsea admired him as well. He wasn’t as big as Braden but just as firm, just as intriguing. Shoulder-length blond hair, made slightly messy when her fingers had run through it. Blue-gray eyes, fair skin. The feel of his body under the expensive clothing he wore—there had been nothing wrong with his reaction to their bit of mutual groping. She sighed. Too bad it probably had been chemically induced on his part.

Her sex throbbed for a second as she thought about being pressed between both men. A wave of jealousy hit as she remembered her new best friend, Alexia, was currently off sexing it up with her two lovers.

Some people had all the luck.

The sound of the front door shutting woke her from the distraction of imagining what Alexia and her husbands were currently doing. She took a deep breath and stepped back into the living room to face the music.

“What the hell was that about?” Braden stormed up to her, all but shaking his finger in her face.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose. I’m frustrated, and I lost control.” She kept her head down, her eyes away from his. She bit her lip to resist moaning as the scent of his skin hit her. Her reaction to him was getting tougher to resist, and she didn’t want to be shot down again. It had hurt too much the last time.

“Well, you need to work on better control, especially for when you leave Jaffrey’s Cove. I’m certainly not going to blame Jamie for reacting to you, and I think I managed to cover it up, but what if that situation arises when you’re away at college? You cause that kind of reaction and someone is going to start asking questions. You could expose yourself as a merfolk.”

Chelsea stared at Braden’s feet, his legs set in a wide stance. Since the chance of her getting to do anything other than stay in Jaffrey’s Cove had dropped to zero, there was little probability of her causing trouble.

“Right, college.”

She turned to go hide, take a cold shower—anything to get away from the man she wanted with a hunger close to pain. If she didn’t know better she’d think she was addicted to him, which was ridiculous. They might have an animal side to their natures, but their shifted form went for casual, not commitment.

Braden stopped her with a gentle tug on her shoulder. “When do you leave for your first semester?”

She froze. He obviously wasn’t aware she’d had to cancel her registration. She took her time to pivot, trying to come up with a suitable answer to throw him off the truth. Something he might believe.

“I…didn’t get in. I scored too low on my SATs.” The lie stuck in her throat. He stepped back, a frown creasing his face with clear disappointment, and a touch of annoyance. Great, he really wanted her to go away.

“Dammit, Chelsea, I thought that’s why you’d waited years to apply—so you’d figure out what program was right for you. I know people offered to help you study.”

She stared at the wall and ignored the knot forming in her belly from lying to him. Playing dumb might hurt her ego, but it stopped the questions.

If only she understood why Braden wasn’t willing to get involved with her. She’d tried to convince herself it was time to move on. Time to let a little pressure off the powder keg of her sexual frustrations by dating someone else. Only that option had been cut off from her too as Braden’s silent disapproval scared away all the eligible men.

Damn controlling bastard. He didn’t want her, but he didn’t want anyone else to have her either.

Suddenly she was angry. Unspeakably upset, and while it wasn’t completely Braden’s fault, he was there and part of the cause of her troubles. She crooked her head back to stare up at him.

“So, the researcher. He’s cute.” She left her facial expression wide and vacant, as innocent as a newborn lamb. Driving Braden crazy seemed a suitable revenge. “I think he likes me.”

Braden slapped a hand to his shaved head and groaned loudly as he paced before her.

“Chelsea, you’re going to be the death of me. Of course he likes you, everyonelikes you. Especially when you turn up the hormones until all the males within striking distance have hard-ons. Damn it, how am I supposed to keep you out of trouble? You’ve been deliberately taunting the humans in the community at every turn since the matriarch left on her honeymoon.” He stalked closer. “You’re asking for trouble you don’t want.”

How dare he act like her actions were by design? Chelsea glared at him. “I haven’t asked for trouble. It’s my damn merfolk hormones and I’m not ‘turning them up’, I’m frustrated. Period. It’s not a matter of using more control. I’m twenty-three and I haven’t had a sexual partner for over a year, ever since you started scaring away the merfolk who could satisfy me.”

“This is my fault?” His skin darkened, flushed with anger, or dare she hope for another reason?

There was only one way to know for sure—she screwed up her meager courage and moved closer, like a butterfly caging a bull.

“You don’t want me to have sex with the humans, but you don’t want me to get involved with any of the other men from the pod. Whose fault could it be? You know you could satisfy me yourself like I asked you before. I want you, Braden, I have for a long time.”

She trailed her finger down his shirt buttons, circling the last one that sat just shy of the top of his jeans. His abdomen muscles quivered under her touch. She lifted her gaze to meet his, gasping as she saw the longing and desire reflected there.

“Chelsea…baby, don’t do this,” he whispered, grabbing her hand and halting her slow exploration of his belt buckle.

“Do what? Make us both happy? Come on, admit it. You want me, don’t you?” She held her breath. Would he actually confess this time?

He clasped their hands together, swearing softly under his breath. A long sigh followed. “You damn well know I want you, but baby—”

A shiver raced up her skin and the need to touch him made her bolder than she’d allowed herself to be for over a year. She nestled in close.

“I’m not a baby. You know it. I know it. Please, I need you.” His hands fell apart and she wrapped herself around him, drawing a deep breath of the scent of his body, spicy and all male. It settled her jangling nerves even as it excited her more. “Hmm, I need you now, Braden.”

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