Nelson Cruz thought he might throw up.
His left temple beat a violent staccato timed to AC/DC’s Hells Bells. His eyelids scratched like sandpaper against his corneas. The left eye was swollen shut; the right didn’t seem to want to obey on principal.
Swallowing past the dryness in his throat, he drew a deep breath and focused on the last thing he could remember. A humid, dark building. Body odor, cigarettes, the hiss of…
Someone had grabbed him. Threats had been yelled in his face. A fist had connected with his eye, another with his gut.
Interrupting the replay in his head, a floral scent brought him back to the here and now, teasing his nose and reminding him of something—someone—completely different. It smelled like…
Playing possum, he held still and finished his inventory. His aching head rested on something soft. Pillow. He was flat on his back, limbs splayed, his battered body cushioned. Bed.
The floral scent grew stronger. A low, seductive voice said, “You looked better last year in San Diego, niño. You really should have stayed there.”
That voice. Smooth. Almost a purr.
His body responded like it always did at the thought of her—his cock grew hard at the thought of her luscious curves in spite of the fact that he’d just had the shit beat out of him. Memories of warm nights, too much tequila, and an ocean of stars assaulted his brain.
Commanding his good eye to open, he realized it didn’t matter. Something covered his eyes. He brought a hand to his face.
Or tried to anyway. Both hands were held hostage, his wrists tied.
Metal rattled as he jerked at the restraints. Not tied. Handcuffed.
To the bed.
Correction: He was handcuffed to FBI Agent Sophia Diaz’s bed.
Ah, shit. “Uncuff me, Soph.”
His voice was rough. Too rough. Too many late nights drinking and smoking with the Savages Motorcycle Gang. This undercover assignment was going to kill him.
If Sophie didn’t first.
The mattress dipped from her weight as she joined him on the bed. Warm fingers played over his naked bicep. “Why are you here?”
To protect your ass and bring you home.
Better to keep that a secret. At least the part about the FBI believing she was a rogue agent. Diaz had a chip on her shoulder bigger than his dick. “Uncuff me and I’ll tell you.”
Her fingernail dug into his muscle. Just enough to remind him she was in charge. “Tell me first, then I might turn you loose. Or I might shoot you.”
Nothing with Sophie was ever easy. “You know what happened the last time you handcuffed me to your bed.”
“Yes, you had the night of your life.”
“And then you left me.”
After he’d found out the truth. After she’d thrown her handcuffs at his head and given a nice scar. “If you’d told me who you were up front, things might have turned out differently.”
“I was undercover.”
“As was I.”
She lifted the corner of the blindfold covering his right eye. Her long, dark hair, beautiful skin, and big hazel-green eyes swam into focus. “Why are you in Tijuana?”
Work was as good of an excuse as ever. Except that if he mentioned his original assignment—Chica Bonita—she’d probably shoot him in the balls for good measure and then throw him out.
Good thing he was a skilled liar. “Just joined the Savages. I’m patrolling the border for Morales.”
“You’re lying.” The blindfold slipped off his head. She sat back on her heels. “Rodrigo’s men are the ones who did this to you.”
Either his vision was screwed or the blow to his eye had messed with his head. Through the haze, it looked like Sophie was wearing nothing but her bra, some lacy black underpants, and a garter. Her breasts were pushed up and out, creating cleavage that made Nelson’s dry mouth water.
Apparently, she didn’t appreciate his ogling, even if it was only with one eye. She smacked him on the cheek. “Focus!”
Hard to do when she was mostly naked on the bed beside him. “God’s truth, Soph. I’m undercover to investigate the gang and some of their dealings along the border. Not all of Morales’s men, and certainly not Rodrigo, know me yet. Especially his personal security team. Who suck, by the way. I’m surprised he’s not dead already.”
“Why were you were sneaking around the grounds of the compound?”
“Can you please uncuff me so we can talk like rational human beings?”
“The only reason you’re alive at this moment is because I intervened and stopped Chavez and his goons from killing you. Rodrigo Morales happens to like me and Chavez knows it. It took some begging on my part, and a threat or two, but I got him to bring you here and let me handle you.”
“Rodrigo’s head of security. The guy who gave you the black eye?”
“Ah. Well, he needs a lesson in protecting an asset.”
“Look, I’m valuable to the Morales cartel, but I still had to lie and say you were…my lover.” She gave an exaggerated shudder. “It was the only way to explain how I knew you.”
“Lover, huh?” He grinned. “I’m happy to play my part.”
Leaning forward, she put her luscious cleavage on full display in front of his face as she stroked his jawline with a finger. He could see the sexy little gap between her front two teeth. “You owe me your life, Nels.”
Her full lips were covered in glossy, red lipstick. Her eyes danced with mischief.
Being a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent with the Southern California Violent Crimes Taskforce had prepared him for many things in his undercover roles with gangs, drug cartels, and human traffickers. Physical violence, torture, possible death. Never had it prepared him for the force of nature contained in the five-foot-five, irresistible package known as Sophia Diaz.
Tied to her bed once more, it was fifty shades of Sophia all over again. Her beauty stunned him into silence. His cock was so tight against his zipper, it hurt.
She took his silence as stubbornness rather than speechlessness, and since she knew a thing or two about breaking his will, she straddled him.
Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. She was wearing spiky red heels.
Her curvaceous bottom nestled down on his hard cock and he moaned before he could stop himself. She planted her hands on his chest and arched her back, a blatant reminder of how she’d rode him the last time they’d spent time in bed together. “You’re wasting time, niño. Tell me the truth or…”
She ground herself into him slowly and deliberately, licking her lips and smiling down on him.
Torture. Brutal, beautiful torture like he hadn’t had since the last time they were in this exact position.
She was undercover, working on bringing down Rodrigo Morales. He was undercover, working a different angle, but on the same man and his cartel. They should be able to work together.
Regardless of the past lies and indiscretions.
In fact, working together would be better for both of them.
Except Special Agent Diaz wasn’t a team player. Never had been. She was the most fiercely independent agent in the FBI. She worked alone and always got her man—the only reason the Feds allowed her to be so independent. Their concern that she’d been under too long on this mission and may have gone rogue was ridiculous. Sophie was Bureau to her lovely bones. Her track record was spotless.
With one exception.
He couldn’t tell her he was investigating the possible resurgence of the human trafficking operation that had been the only failure of her career.
So he told her the only thing he could. “Guido Ruiz.”
The sex goddess morphed back into FBI agent. She stopped undulating on top of him and gave him a hard stare. “What about him?”
Nelson took one last look at all the beautiful cleavage and sighed. “He put out a hit on you at 0800 hours yesterday.”
“What? Where did you hear this?”
“He hired me to do it.”
That gave her pause. “You?”
“He doesn’t know I’m with the Savages and my backstop identity says I’ve done murder-for-hire quite successfully. At the bar the other night, Guido offered me a hundred-thousand to kill you—one of the reasons the FBI and the SCVC Taskforce want me to bring you home.”
She looked at him wide-eyed for a second and then threw back her head and laughed. Low and husky, the sound sent ripples down his spine, not to mention what it did to his already straining lower parts.
Patting his chest, she gave another chuckle. “I’m not going anywhere with you, ICE boy. Feel free to run back to San Diego and tell the FBI, and your boss at the taskforce, to stay out of my operation. I’m not scared of Guido and I’m too close to bringing down Morales to blow this over an idle threat by a spoiled brat posing as a rival cartel leader.”
Guido was no spoiled brat. He was a six-foot-three monster with a shaved head and teardrop tattoos. Six of ʼem. He’d once worked for Rodrigo’s father and decided to take over. A bloody battle ensued, but Ciro Morales had deep pockets and loyal employees. He won the skirmish and Guido went underground.
For a while, anyway.
Now, with Ciro dead, the monster was back and he was coming after Ciro’s son. Killing off Rodrigo Morales was tough, even if his security detail wasn’t the brightest, and Guido liked to make his prey suffer first. Everyone knew Rodrigo had a thing for his accountant. Guido planned to kill her off first.
“It’s not an idle threat, Soph.” Nelson understood Sophie’s bravado. As an undercover agent, her life was always in danger, like his. Miss 99% Ball Buster wasn’t about to let a criminal of any type ruin her chance at a successful bust, regardless of the fact that Guido had once been the Morales cartel’s right-hand man and was the only serious menace to Rodrigo at this point. But that didn’t matter. The higher-ups wanted her butt back in the U.S. “Your life is in imminent danger. It’s time to pack it in.”
“I can’t leave. I won’t leave. Not yet.” She studied him, her eyes softening as she leaned forward, putting her face in front of his. “But maybe you can stay if you play along and pretend to be my lover and bodyguard.”
Once more through the fog in his brain due to her nearness, Nelson reminded himself that Sophie never worked with a partner. Which was why he’d ended up holding shit instead of evidence the last round he’d gone with her.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice… “What do I get out of it?”
Sophie grinned and produced a key from between her breasts. “For starters, I’ll release you.”
That was easy.
Something was wrong here but he couldn’t snap the pieces together when she was shoving her chest into his and her big smile encouraged him to forget his misgivings and consider her offer.
Freedom and Sophie in one package. What could he say?
“You have a deal, Agent Diaz.”