Release date: FEBRUARY 1st
Blurb: A haunted and abandoned hotel on Halloween is the setting for a very private party between two lovers, one of them a world-class, sophisticated intelligence operative who’s trying to teach his young and innocent lady that curiosity can sometimes take you places you’d be better not to go. Amid elaborate trappings meant to scare and entice, Rick’s seduction takes some unexpected but wickedly wonderful twists. But, Rick also has a lesson to learn, when his past collides with his present, and almost destroys everything he cherishes most.
A Romantica® erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
The old hotel was eerie in the approaching darkness and she was finding it difficult to hold on to her resolve to do this without calling Rick. There’d been a weird message on the machine when she got home—something about discovering a secret she needed to know. The voice had sounded slightly familiar, although she couldn’t quite pinpoint why. There’d also been just enough mystery in the vague words to arouse her interest. The entire situation—the call and her coming here to this deserted hotel—reminded her of something she’d heard of once, but her efforts to pull it from memory hadn’t been remotely successful.
She should know better than this.
She couldn’t escape the twinge of conscience that reminded her how often she played out of her league. When her father had retired from the Agency and started his own private investigation business, he’d thought his daughter would be safe from the ghosts of his violent past. More than once, though, Cinthya had paid for the deeds and decisions of Joshua Bradley’s previous career. This could well be another such setup, and here she was walking right into it. All she had in the way of consolation that she wasn’t about to get herself killed, kidnapped or worse was the deeply rooted intuition that this wasn’t what it appeared. The vague sense of familiarity she felt gave a small sense of security.
Her relationship with Rick wasn’t a point of reassurance either in the creaking darkness of the forsaken hotel. There were people who knew him and his reputation, and often it was a point of protection, but here that was irrelevant. It was with Joshua’s very reluctant blessing that his twenty-year-old daughter had stepped into a loving relationship with his business partner, the shadowy, sophisticated and lethal Rick Leighton. The ten-year age difference was only the first objection her father had voiced when Cinthya had been forced by her own conscience to open up to him—conscience and the undeniable need to share her happiness with the other important person in her life.
Rick’s recent decision to leave Bradley’s Private Investigations and reenter the life of an active Company operative set up an entirely new array of potential dangers for Cinthya. It was a risk she was more than willing to take, but not something that lessened the worry from her father and Rick.
Cinthya couldn’t help but wonder what Rick or her dad would have to say about her accepting a cryptic message to meet an unspecified contact—alone—in an abandoned building. Was she being deliberately stupid or was she actually safe? Damn! She couldn’t decide. Instinct and good sense were at war here.
She leapt back in fright when something clingy and featherlight brushed against her face. With a cry of disgust, she batted away the filmy cobwebs and peered into the shadowy stairwell. She was on the second floor, which mean she only had one more flight to climb. Then she’d have to find room 313.
Against her will, some of the things she’d heard about this old wreck of a building began to pop into her head. Some people claimed the Mayfair Hotel was haunted, and those who lived in the area could tell endless stories about “sightings” and other mysterious events in the ancient edifice.
Another shudder ran the length of her spine when she heard skittering near her feet. Rats! The place had to be infested with rats. She glanced around, her breath still as she searched the growing darkness for the beady red eyes she was sure she’d find watching her. There was nothing staring at her from the blackness of the corners, and she sagged against the wall as she gasped for air.
God! Rick was right, I should never have stayed up all night watching horror movies.
He’d consented to sit through the original version of The Phantom of the Opera—he deemed that particular film “a classic”—but Cinthya had been on her own after that. It had been nearing daybreak when she’d finally crawled into bed—and about another thirty seconds before she flew out again, tripping in the sheets and falling flat on her face. Rick had almost fallen out of bed himself from laughing at her. His unexpected grab had gotten a much better reaction than he’d hoped for. He was still laughing when he’d left the apartment earlier this afternoon.
Cinthya dismissed from her mind the monsters and ghouls of the previous night and concentrated on locating the room where she was supposed to find her mystery caller. A sag in the weathered wood of the floor creaked in the hollow corridor. She bit her bottom lip to prevent any sound from escaping. Her hammering heartbeat gradually subsided and she felt some of the fear-induced dizziness pass. A chill rippled through her though, when she realized she was staring up at the shadowy ceiling, her gaze drawn to the vast network of cobwebs that had been woven over the years. It looked like wisps of cotton, stretched to the point of breaking, except that this thready cloak was dulled with years of dust and grime.
A distinct thud at the other end of the long hallway had her heading in that direction without taking the time to consider her actions.
She was several doors away from the room she was supposed to be looking for when she was grabbed from behind. A firm hand over her mouth cut off her scream. There was no chance to fight off her attacker and she cursed herself as she was dragged into a room and flung into a chair. She had a sense of movement, whoever had grabbed her was little more than a shadowy presence in the near-total darkness. Her hands were tied securely behind the high chair back and her feet were bound to the legs of the seat.
The room grew blacker as her panic escalated, and she tried to force her eyes to adjust by keeping them closed. She let out a gasp of protest when a blindfold was tied around her head. For a split second, the sensation of silk distracted her thoughts; the smooth feel of the material against her skin was actually soothing. Her captor chose not to gag her, but Cinthya knew it would be futile to yell anyway. She’d be considered one of the hotel ghosts, if anyone heard her at all—not much of a chance in this neighborhood.
“What’s going on? Who are you?” That was brilliant! she chided herself.
There was no reply and she strained to identify the sound as she caught the distinct rasp of a match being struck. She could smell the hint of burning wood, then the stronger odor of lamp oil. Oh shit! Some nut was setting fire to the crumbling hotel and she was going to go down with it! She opened her mouth to speak then decided against it when she couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Pleading with whoever was doing this wouldn’t get her very far.
Visions of flames running through the old building, devouring it, began to fill her mind with genuine fear.
She felt movement more than she actually heard it, and her heartbeat threatened to deafen her when she sensed someone standing over her.
“What do you want?” She winced at the unmistakable quaver in her voice then jumped when she felt hands on the back of the chair, close to her shoulders. She opened her mouth again but never uttered a sound as her lips were covered with a warm, gentle kiss.
Recognition left her weak and shaking as she answered the thrust of her lover’s tongue. The caress was sensual and provocative, leaving Cinthya breathless and excited when it finally ended minutes later.
“What took you so long, honey?” Rick whispered, his breath soft against Cinthya’s lips.
“Take the blindfold off and untie me,” she said, a tiny flare of irritation working into her tone when she realized she’d walked blithely into an elaborate joke. Rick wasn’t going to let her live this one down for some time, of that much she was certain.
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