Wicked ties, p.24
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       Wicked Ties, p.24

         Part #1 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 24


  The big warrior stepped around Jack and extended his hand with a friendly smile that changed his whole face from forbidding to surprisingly approachable.

  Haltingly, she held her hand out to him, and they shook. “Morgan O’Malley. ”

  “Jack, you asshole. Hoarding the pretty girls again. I really ought to beat your ass for that. ”

  He snorted. “Yeah, you try. ”

  Deke grinned. “Later. Outside. You, me, and the gators. ” He turned to Morgan with a conspiratorial whisper. “Ask me, and I’ll tell you who to place your money on. Better yet, maybe I can convince you to grant the winner a kiss. Then I promise it won’t be any contest. ”

  His gentle teasing set her at ease immediately. Despite the awkward situation, she felt herself relax and smile back.

  “I’m not the human equivalent of a poker chip,” Morgan teased with a roll of her eyes.

  “Good girl,” Jack praised. “And if my business partner doesn’t stop messing where he hasn’t been invited, he’s going to find his face one bloody blob—uglier than it already is. ”

  Deke laughed and sauntered back toward Jack, slapping him on the shoulder. “You’re so damn subtle, Jack. ” He cast another heated look in her direction, gaze lingering on her bare legs and the outline of her unbound breasts through the sweatshirt. “And you’re one lucky bastard. ”

  Morgan bit her lip under his appraising gaze, at once discomfited. And shamefully intrigued. Deke looked like something out of a hard-core war film—not at all her type. Neither was Jack, for that matter. But… never mind; she wasn’t going there.

  “Did you come here for a reason? Or just to torment me?” Jack shot back acidly.

  Morgan saw through the sarcasm immediately. It was clear he and Deke were great friends. Jack didn’t trust many people, but she’d bet he trusted the big blond guy with his life. At this moment, however, Jack was tense, watchful, even a bit angry. He pretended to take Deke’s teasing well—but he wasn’t.

  “Well, you know I never pass up the opportunity to torment you. Not that I need the practice. ”

  “Nope, you’ve got it down to a fine art. ”

  “Years of effort. ” Deke sighed. “But I did come here for a reason. ” He glanced back at Morgan, all business now. “You might want to hear this, too. It’s about your stalker. ”

  She sucked in a breath. In all her tangled emotions and the easy banter, she’d lost sight of the murderous lunatic. Silly her.

  “Okay. Um, one minute. I can’t face this without something to eat. ”

  “And coffee, I’m sure,” Deke added.

  Morgan made a face. Jack laughed.

  “She doesn’t drink it,” he told Deke.

  He raised a tawny brow. “Is she human?”

  Rolling her eyes, Morgan padded back to the bedroom. If she was going to face the testosterone inquisition, she needed something more than a flap of sweatshirt covering her ass. Once she’d retrieved Jack’s oversized bathrobe, she padded to the bathroom and brushed her teeth and hair.

  When she made her way down the hall again, Jack and Deke both sat at the round kitchen table, cups of strong coffee resting on the smooth pine surface. A piece of toast and a glass of orange juice waited for her.

  She glanced at Jack in surprise. He merely guided her into a chair without comment.

  He’d made dinner last night, and now this? The man who tied her up and told her exactly how to behave in the bedroom so he could send her straight to mindless orgasm did something as menial as cook for her? Like he was taking care of her?

  “Thanks,” she murmured, totally confused, as she settled into the chair across from Deke.

  Jack sat on her left, then with a nod, turned to his business partner. “Deke has some pals at the FBI who have studied copies of the photos the sick bastard has been leaving you and the pattern of his behavior. ”

  Deke gripped his mug of coffee and leaned across the little table, a formidable presence even in the large, airy room. Morgan found herself holding her breath, hoping that he knew something, anything, to help catch her personal Norman Bates before he became a full-fledged Psycho.

  “Your stalker is likely a man somewhere between the age of twenty and forty-five. He’s someone you know. His behavior…he functions like an intimate-partner stalker, someone who is a little obsessed and can’t let go. ”

  “But if he’s someone I know, wouldn’t I know who? I mean, wouldn’t he want me to be certain who he is?”

  “The way he withholds his identity is unusual. Either he’s purposely hiding it from you or he thinks it’s so obvious that you must know who you ‘belong to. ’ Judging from the bit of evidence we have, I think it’s the latter. I don’t think this person is into subterfuge for the sake of hiding. So that makes him delusional, too. ”

  Morgan sighed, her stomach tightening with fear at Deke’s every word. “Was there any question of that?”

  “No, but the fact that he followed you to Houston when you went to stay with your fiancé tells us he’s serious,” Jack added.

  Deke glanced back at her, surprise reflected in the raised arches of his brows.

  Fiancé? Morgan searched her memory. Jack’s tense jaw and black glower suddenly reminded her that she’d told him that she was engaged to Brandon. The lie hadn’t kept him from moving in too close. But correcting Jack now would only give him a greener light than he already thought he had to pursue whatever sexual arrangement he might want from her. Nope. She was hanging onto to her subterfuge and pleading extreme guilt in case he came sniffing around again. Next time, she’d have to remember she was supposedly an engaged woman.

  “L. A. to Houston is a long way for a prank,” she agreed.

  “Exactly,” Deke cut in. “But the way this character took shots at you suggests there’s vengeance on his mind. ”

  “He thinks you’re his,” said Jack. “But when he saw you having coffee with me, that’s the first time he tried to shoot you…like he wanted to punish you and keep anyone from having you if he couldn’t. ”

  “That’s twisted. ” Morgan grimaced.

  “Stalkers aren’t nice, normal guys. ” Deke shrugged.

  She sighed. “I still have no idea who this is. ”

  “I’m sure you know him, Morgan. This is someone you’ve been close with on some level, somewhere between

  conversationally and sexually. But in your interaction, he believed that you connected, that you were meant for him, which gives him the right to punish you for any ‘bad’ behavior you exhibit, like seeing another man. You’ve figured out that he’s tenacious. ”

  “Yeah, I know he’s not going to call it a day anytime soon. ” The knot of apprehension in her belly tightened.

  “Good,” Deke praised. “You and Jack are doing everything you can. Stay here for now. At this point, don’t try to be Miss Independent. ”

  Getting away from Jack would be great for her selfrespect—but terrible for her safety. Morgan sighed. “It chafes me to need a babysitter, but until I know who and what I’m dealing with, I feel better with backup. ”

  “Good. Does he ever call your cell phone?” Deke questioned.

  “No. About six months ago, I got a new number. Only three people have the number: My mother, Brandon, and my agent. ”


  “Her fiancé. ”

  Jack’s rancor as he answered his business partner stunned her. He sounded very unhappy about the “fact” she had a soon-tobe husband. Morgan frowned. He’d gotten what he wanted, right? He couldn’t possibly be jealous.

  “Oh, and my production assistant, Reggie, has the number. ”

  Jack and Deke shot each other an oblique look.

  “How much do you know about Reggie?”

  They suspected Reggie, clearly. Morgan started to tell them they were being absurd. Reggie was a cross between a giant teddy bear and a father figure. But then she realized that anyone could be a sus
pect. Anyone at all, no matter how absurd it sounded.

  “Reggie has been with me since the show started. He’s somewhere around forty. Divorced. He doesn’t seem like the type…but I guess no one gets ‘stalker’ tattooed across their forehead to make identification easy. ”

  “Exactly. Do you talk with him about personal things?”

  She shrugged. “Some, I guess. He let me cry on his shoulder a time or two after my big break-up with Andrew. After Turn Me On was renewed, most of the cast went out together to this trendy L. A. bar and put down a few too many. Reggie ended up telling me about his divorce and how his ex cheated on him before he ordered a pot of coffee and insisted on taking me home since I couldn’t possibly drive. ”

  “Did you have sex with him?” Jack prodded.

  Morgan’s jaw dropped. “No! I told you every bit of my personal past, which I’m sure you shared with Deke. ”

  “He was sketchy about the details at best,” Deke said with mock regret. “You can feel free to provide details. Or use me to reenact anything particularly juicy. ”

  Jack whipped around in his seat and burned a furious, quelling glare at Deke.

  “Or not,” said the blond giant.

  Morgan’s gaze bounced back and forth between the two of them. What in the heck was going on? Jack was acting almost…possessive. She held in a snort. Yeah, as if she mattered to a guy like Jack. To him, she’d just be a plaything.

  “No chance you were too intoxicated to remember having sex with Reggie?” Jack asked.

  “No. I woke up the next morning with my panty hose still on. ”

  Jack relaxed a degree or two and looked at his pal. “Anything else, man?”

  Deke’s reply was suddenly very businesslike. “Not at the moment. I’ll take the originals of the photos out for forensic analysis, to see if this guy left behind any prints or other clues. ”

  “That sounds unlikely,” she said.

  “It is,” Deke admitted with a shrug. “But you never know. Maybe he had a careless moment, or never believed you’d try to have them analyzed. I won’t know anything for a few days. But be patient. We’ll get to the bottom of it. ” He patted her hand.

  Suddenly, Jack stood. His chair scraped across the hardwood floors, ripping into the early morning quiet. His entire body was tense as he slapped Deke on the back.

  “Let’s go discuss business. ”

  Deke hesitated, appearing to fight a grin. Morgan had the feeling he was completely amused by the demand.

  “Okay. ” He turned to Morgan. “Nice to meet you. ”

  When he extended his hand across the table, Morgan barely had time to shake it before Jack herded him down the hall to the door, unlocked it, and pushed him through. She watched them disappear with a frown. What in the hell was up with Jack? #

  Jack resisted the urge to slam the door behind them. He also resisted the urge to plow his fists into Deke’s face—but that took a lot more effort.

  What in the hell is wrong with me?

  “Okay, whatever it is, spill it,” Deke demanded, sitting in the chair beside the computer workstation.

  Jack didn’t pretend to misunderstand.

  He sighed and plopped down into his own chair. Where should he start? The tangled tale only got more complicated with every minute that passed. Revenge, lust, attempted murder, sex that didn’t just rock his world, but rocked his soul—all in the last two days.

  But like every story, Jack figured he’d better start at the beginning.

  “My ex-wife was having a fling with another man before she left. ”

  “You mentioned that once after about your sixth hurricane that weekend in New Orleans. ”

  “His name was Brandon Ross. ”

  Deke frowned. “Brandon Ro— the Brandon that Morgan is engaged to?”

  Jack rested his elbows on his knees and peered up at his friend. “The very same. ”

  “I’d say it’s a huge coincidence that you wound up with your enemy’s woman under your protection and under your roof— and unless I’m totally off-base here—in your bed. But I know you too well to believe in a coincidence that big. ”

  “I planned it,” Jack confirmed. “Everything to the last detail. I was going to seduce her, then fuck her, and rub that fact in Brandon’s face, the way he rubbed it in mine. ”

  Deke whistled. “Ballsy, man. Crappy but ballsy. So what happened?”

  Jack stood, paced the small windowless room. When had it gotten so damn small in here? It had never bothered him before.

  He turned his back on Deke. Sighed. Fisted his hands. Merde, he felt jumpy.

  No, it was more than that. Anger—at Brandon for starting this shit, at himself for feeling the desire to get back at his former pal being dangerously usurped by the desire to have Morgan under him again. Anger that Morgan had, all night long, cheated with perfect bliss on her fiancé and appeared not to care a single bit. Yet she’d still managed to hold back that…something inside her. Damn it, her body, her face, told him she still hadn’t fully fucking submitted.

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