Kai Armstrong took a hard look around the apartment, mentally counting down the remaining minutes left to search it. The woman's home was impeccably clean, organized to the point of insanity. Instead of making it easier, the neatness made it twice as hard to be thorough, and dammit, he knew he was overlooking something. He could feel it in his bones.
The bedroom, however, was subtly different. Although it was just as tidy, it was unequivocally feminine. The stale apartment air was faintly scented with perfume, lotions, and face powder. Her closet revealed conservative suits, but her dresser drawers held the lingerie of a first-class call girl.
His fingers twitched against scraps of black lace when he heard keys jiggling at the front door.
"Damn." Out of time. He carefully placed the garment back, closed the drawer, and in three steps had slipped into the nearby closet, melting into its depths just as Sonya Drummond walked into the bedroom.
Through the slats of the closet door, he watched the con artist drop a couple of gift-wrapped boxes on the bed, kick off sensible shoes, then shrug off a double-breasted jacket.
She sighed, looking exhausted in an all too fragile, womanly way that no thieving embezzler had the right to.
The little black number she wore was by all rights a no-nonsense sleeveless dress that was conservative, sleek, and professional. The cut hinted at soft curves and somehow distracted from the career accountant look.
Sonya unzipped the dress and started shimmying it off.
The dress made a hushed sound as it slid down her body and---her thigh-high stockings were completely unexpected. The lacy rust and black bra and matching thong looked sinful against her creamy mocha brown skin. Her waist was small, complementing the swell of her hips and breasts like the body of a violin.
Not one damned bit conservative!
Kai felt talons of pure desire claw into his belly. The seam of his jeans started to get snug, making him feel like a slack-jawed lecher.
Well, damn it all. . . . There on her slim neck was the butterfly necklace he'd been scouring the apartment for!
She absently touched the piece of jewelry, then walked over to the bedside radio. Moments later, Kai heard soulful jazz crooning from the speakers.
If he didn't get out soon, his brother was going to call wondering what was up. Kai looked down to check his wristwatch, then made sure his cell phone was off. He nudged his erection to the left for comfort, but it did no good.
When he looked up again, Sonya Drummond had put her suit on a hanger and was heading straight for his hiding place.
There was no time to do more than hold perfectly still and pray.
She opened the opposite closet door---thank God!---and placed the hanger on the rail, just inches away from his face. The displaced air pushed her lingering heat and scent onto him. Licking his lips was a mistake. He could practically taste her, her essence lingering like an invisible kiss.
Forcing back the thought, he watched her return to the bed and slide the nylons from her legs in a careful, practical manner, probably so as not to get runs or some such thing. Might as well have been a Victoria's Secret model, though.
How on earth had he not seen some of this sensuality when he was building her profile? All those clocked hours had only captured the image she'd wanted him to see, making him believe that her car, her job, and her boxy, bland business suits were certifiably boring and conservative.
She'd mastered the image of prim dowdiness, from her hair to her low-heeled shoes. Even her scent reminded him of soft linen and fresh flowers.
And until today, he'd fallen for it.
This woman he was looking at now . . . well, she should've been wearing cleavage-defining, curve-hugging suits and musky perfume, and charging by the hour.
Mentally, he took a bow, admitting he would've remained clueless if not for searching her home. Almost a sucker, but not quite.
He certainly wasn't in the business to ask why cons committed crimes but to find the weakness that drove them to it. And with white-collar criminals it was usually their nature to return to the same kind of crime, which suited him just fine.
And now that he thought of it, embezzlement fit her Jekyll and Hyde act. If her lingerie revealed a weakness, his surveillance hadn't caught it. Maybe that's how she was spending her money, though. Hey, food for thought.
He shifted his head to the left for a better view and the dress on the hanger brushed his cheek like a caress, the scent of her diving south to swell his growing erection.
One thing was for sure. If her secret sensuality held the key to her weakness, it wasn't going to be hard to come up with a plan to take her down.
Home at last!
Sonya stretched her neck, then absently removed the pins that held her coiffure in place. Her hair tumbled past her shoulders and she massaged her scalp, exhaling in relief. It had been a hectic day at work and the last thing she wanted was reminders that not only had she aged yet another year, but she also still remained single and a workaholic.
Normally, that didn't bother her, but the horniness was new on the pity list and, to her amazement, it had steadily moved up the list to the number one spot.
Happy Friggin' Birthday.
The fortune cookie that had been dessert for her Chinese lunch had promised "A wild and dashing adventure is soon to come."
If the Fortune Cookie Gods were listening, surely they knew that her hormones had her all but climbing the walls, yearning, waiting for sex, sex, SEX! Not the polite, stilted sex she'd had with Paul several years ago. That would be the equivalent of golf or croquet sex. What she needed was some serious tackle football sex. Some hot, sweaty, rough-around-the-edges sex. Unpredictable sex. The kind of sex that loosened headboards and made animals out of timid lovers.
She sighed. At least, she'd heard there was such a thing.
Her friends Julie and Lisa talked the subject to death every chance they got. If Julie hadn't gone to San Francisco on business and Lisa hadn't missed her plane, they'd be painting the town red right about now. OK, mostly her friends would be painting the town while she'd most likely be taking notes.
Sonya settled on the bed and apprehensively eyed the gift Julie had sent her. As crazy as she was, there was no telling what she was up to. Especially when she had warned Sonya to "keep an open mind."
Sonya crossed her legs, reached for the box. Inside, she found a card along with what looked like a plastic butterfly-like apparatus. What was it with butterflies anyway? Just days before, her uncle had surprised her with a gorgeous butterfly necklace she'd finally worked up the nerve to wear and---
"Oh, my goodness. . . ." At closer inspection the plastic thing looked like . . . a sex toy? Sonya gaped at the package for a moment before opening the card.
What can I say? Gift certificates are too predictable. This should be much better anyway. Fresh batteries included. Have fun and try not to go blind! Happy Birthday!
The nerve! Sonya giggled. Were confessions among friends no longer sacred? All she'd done was mention that her sex-o-meter was revving high these days. How could Julie jump to such an outrageous conclusion?!
Sonya examined the toy more closely, then tore the wrapper off. The plastic wings were pliable and soft, and it even came with controls. She inserted her finger into the space provided; then, with a touch of a switch, Sonya turned it on. It began vibrating with a low hum.
"Oh!" She shivered when the tiny tremors traveled up her finger like fluid lightning. Moving the control lever higher increased the humming, and by the time she maxed it out, her whole hand was all but shaking.
A delicious sensation snaked up her arm and nestled deep in her breasts, tightening her nipples and kicking her sex-o-meter up several notches. God! She needed to get laid often and supremely well if she was getting turned on by this clever little insect.
A very vibrant, humming insect. Plastic and batteries. Who knew?
The longer she sat studying the toy, the more the crazy vibrations against her finger thickened her pulse and made her want more. . . . Would it be just as good against the aching part of her sex? As it was, she was slowly melting. And leaning toward myopic.
And now what?
The jazz from the radio took on a sultry rhythm, and she balked, stunned that she was really contemplating using the gadget.
Hell, why not? It was just a . . . a thing. What harm could it do? Better yet, what thrills could it bring?
She counted to ten; then closing her eyes, Sonya touched the butterfly to her face, cheeks, and lips, hissing in a breath at the odd contact. The touch felt almost electric, especially beneath her jaw. Experimentally, she took her time zigzagging a path downward to the rust and black lace that covered her breasts.
Hey, that wasn't so bad. Not at all.
So maybe if she touched . . . Oh yes. There. . . . She licked her lips and drew a lazy design over her bra, moving inward until the butterfly lingered over her nipples, delving into the valley of soft curves between.
Oh yes . . . that was . . .
"Mmmm." She grinned. The sensations shimmied up her back, making her arch slightly. Why on earth hadn't she thought to test-drive one of these toys before?
She found herself hesitating with the butterfly against her belly button, feeling suddenly prudish. Silly, really.
The trick was to simply take action and go where no vibrating butterfly had ever gone before.
Don't think about it. Just do it!
She uncrossed her legs and tugged the scrap of garment down to her knees, then sank backward into the soft comforter. With the butterfly in her hand, she undid the front clasp of her bra and pushed the delicate material to the side, still debating for a moment before testing the lovely tremors against her bare skin.
Oh, Lord. It sure beat blowing out candles.
She skimmed her other hand over her belly again and slid south until her fingers made contact with the small thatch of pubic hair.
Catching her breath, she touched herself, delving deeper. Oh yessss!
Paul, her former boyfriend, had never cared to touch her there. And before him there had only been those awkward first- and second-base touches back in high school, which were nothing compared to this.
If a man was to master this touch, she'd be putty in his hands. Hell, she'd become his sex slave, his love concubine, anything he wanted.
Her fingertips were already slick with her wetness, but she kept the slow tempo, anticipating the spiraling rush of sensation. She licked her lips and shifted her hips, thirsting for a kiss that would never come.
When the ache threatened to get the best of her, she switched the vibrations into a higher gear, then brushed the toy against her clitoris. The initial fluttering vibrations simmered on her skin, and she gave in to the sensation with a gasp. Each touch, each delve into her wetness made her body flush hotter, sending shivers of fluid pleasure clear down to her toes.
God, she wished for a dream lover, right there, right now! Hard and ready to mount! She needed the weight of skin and muscles, of tangling legs and wide-palmed caresses, of breathless, tangled kisses from someone who knew exactly where to touch . . .
Under her fingertip, the pleasure rose rapidly, and Sonya groaned, tipping her head back and riding the throb of each pulsation. Her orgasm loomed, whirling and racing in her blood like a glowing surge of energy trapped inside a crystal---
A loud ringing noise blared and Sonya jerked in a blind panic, nervously yanking the butterfly from its precarious perch. Disconcerted, her eyes darted around her until she realized the noise was only the bedside phone's ringing.
She glared at it. "Goddammit!"
The dumb instrument responded by shrilling back.
She dabbed her forehead with the back of her hand, but after the third offensive ring she snatched the receiver and put it to her ear, prepared to vent.
"Sonya? Hi. Hope I didn't catch you at a bad time."
"Um . . ." Jeez, not the boss! Not now! The laziest two-bit, bad-breathed, watercooler clueless wonder who always seemed to think she never had enough of a workload.
"Sounds like I woke you up?"
Sonya cleared her throat, hoping her voice would sound less husky. "No, I was just . . ." Reaaaally getting it on with a toy . . . um, having my way with a vibrating, plastic insect . . . riding an electric butterfly. . . . "Um, unwinding."
"Well, say, I was just calling to see if you were able to handle the Nelson paperwork I left on your desk. They're gonna send someone to pick it up first thing in the morning."
Ugh! Such a micromanager! "Yes. It's all taken care of."
"Excellent. Great. Well, I'll be in midmorning tomorrow. Crawford and Associates wants an early game of golf, so," he chuckled as if he'd cracked a fine joke, "I'll be losing to Craig again. You're in charge while I'm out."
Yeah, whatever. Don't call me at home ever again, you moron!
If there was ever anyone who could successfully ruin the moment, it was Lester Werner. All the fizzing arousal from moments earlier dissolved. In the span of two seconds, she just knew what he was going to say next. No, don't ask me out again. Nooo!
"If you're free tomorrow evening, I---"
"I'm sorry," she interrupted. "I've already made plans."
"Oh. Of course." He sounded genuinely perplexed, which summed up how amazingly clueless the man was.
By the time she hung up the phone, Sonya was frustrated in more ways than one.
Alone with her butterflies.
Older. None the wiser. Successful, sure, but even that hard-earned achievement wouldn't keep her warm at night. As it was, the loneliness had begun to fester nightly, forming a hollowness in her chest that gaped wide open. . . .
Her birthday was definitely not going to turn into another pity party. She wanted sex, and in a more personal and intimate manner than a tiny battery-operated vibrator provided. Preferably at an exotic location where a muscular cabana boy would serve her cute umbrella drinks right along with hot, sweaty sex! That was exactly what she needed.
Sonya inhaled a deep breath, feeling slightly dizzy and exhilarated. Hey, a birthday resolution!
A raunchy fling? The idea seemed so perfect she wondered why it had never occurred to her before! What better way to celebrate entering her thirties than shedding her inhibitions, discarding her old image, and becoming a whole new-and-improved thirty-year-old Sonya!
One who apparently wanted to do it with poolside help.
She groaned and flopped back on the bed.
It sounded crazy, but other than the constant loneliness and sexual frustration, what was there to lose?
She dabbed her forehead again. This was it. No backing away from it now. Besides, it beat the usual try-to-shed-ten-pounds routine she'd been promising herself on birthdays and New Years.
A vacation was just the thing. Somewhere with anonymity. Preferably without interruptions. And who knew, maybe after the sex madness wore off, she'd come back to San Diego and hunt down a husband in time for her next birthday.
Thirty and crazy.
Thirty-one and married.
It was a plan.
Sonya squeezed her thighs together and tried to ignore the thick heat that still lingered like a dull throb between her legs. She sat up and the bra straps slid from her shoulders.
The sight of the elegant vibrator suddenly embarrassed her and she knew this wasn't going to be the night to short out its poor circuitry.
All in good time. The thought of her boss was still present enough to taint the mood anyway.
For now, she'd settle for the comfort of a hot shower.
Setting the item aside, Sonya retreated to the bathroom, humming "Happy Birthday" along the way.
Kai couldn't believe it! He felt as if he was trapped in an erotic version of the Twilight Zone!
It had to be every male fantasy: seeing a woman please herself like Sonya Drummond had, making those small moaning noises, seeing her body's blatant response to that little device. There was a carnal innocence in the way she'd used it, in the exploratory way she'd fumbled, then unexpectedly held off, looking oddly embarrassed.
Man, he'd never envied a vibrating unit more! It didn't change the fact that he would've traded places with it in a hot second, kissing her where her fingers played or invading her with his body, with his mouth, until he felt all her tremors dancing against him, around him, gripping him. . . .
Holy Hell, it was all he could do to keep from ripping the damned closet doors off the hinges and storming her while she was so thoroughly lost in the groove.
Instead he continued to hold the closet knobs in a death grip, breaking out in a sweat, head bent against the wood. He peered out while the sultry images replayed in his mind, mingling with the distracting perfume of her clothes, damn near bringing him to his knees.
If he ever found out who'd called to interrupt the final moment, there would be hell to pay! He still was having trouble with the fact that she'd stopped masturbating to answer a phone call! Christ, who does that?!
Sonya stirred and Kai leaned back far enough to watch through the slats as she stood and strode naked to the bathroom. After a few quiet sounds, the sound of water came from the shower, followed by more sounds of her stepping in.
Kai eased his hands from the closet doors, took a steadying breath, then stepped carefully out. His erection bordered on painful, straining his pants like Italian salami.
Nudging it left or right didn't matter at this point.
He closed the closet doors and began to move away.
The room smelled of sex.
Don't be a pervert! Move on!
He hesitated a second longer, then left out the front door. He locked it then as casually as possible and strolled down the street.
Copyright © 2006 by Delilah Dawson
DELILAH DAWSON lives in California with her husband and kids. She enjoys reading, summer sunshine, and lazy days on the beach. Please visit her Web site at: DelilahDawson.com for more information on her upcoming books.