DIRTY SECRET by Chelle Bliss & Brenda Rothert
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*STANDALONE – ENEMIES TO LOVERS ROMANCE**
Agent: Kennedy Barnes
Target: Phoenix ‘Nix’ Ash
Crimes: Hacker and Heartbreaker
Mission: Get Close and Survive
After living her life in the shadows as the daughter of a congressman’s secret affair, Kennedy Barnes joins ‘Project Greenlight’ – a clandestine intelligence organization. She’s out to prove she’s more than her father’s dirty secret.
One of her first assignments is simple. Get close to Phoenix Ash, collect enough evidence to put him away for life, and get out unscathed.
Phoenix Ash is a world renowned hacker. He’s pulled off some of the biggest heists in modern history, but never leaves a trace. He knows people are after him and that every day may be his last, but when he meets Kennedy Barnes everything changes.
Lines are blurred and secrets are exposed as Phoenix and Kennedy both discover they do have a weakness – for each other.
This is a STANDALONE novel, but is interconnected with Dirty Work, which is now available.
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PREVIOUS NOVEL IN THIS STANDALONE SERIES
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Chelle Bliss, USA Today Bestselling author, currently lives in a small town near the Gulf of Mexico. She’s a full-time writer, time-waster extraordinaire, social media addict, and coffee fiend. She’s written over thirteen books and has three series available. She loves spending her free time with her boyfriend, 2 cats, and her hamster.
While smoothing my sleek, chin-length bob in the mirror, I briefly consider getting my long black hair colored this shade.
“I look kick-ass with bright blue hair,” I murmur as I admire the wig.
My roommate Olivia scoffs as she walks into our tiny bathroom.
“You look kick-ass with any color hair, darling,” she says, struggling to pull down her tight black leather pants.
“Did you hit the chocolate a little hard in Switzerland?” I ask with a smirk.
“Fuck no.” She shimmies to get the pants lowered and then sits down to pee. “These pants are just plastered to my skin. I’ve been wearing them for, like, forty hours now.”
“Problems with your op?”
She sighs heavily. “You might say that. But I got what I needed.”
“Do we have any food? I haven’t eaten in forever, unless that shitty little bag of peanuts on the plane counts.”
“There’s leftover Chinese takeout from last night.”
“Sweet. I’m inhaling it after I take a shower.”
I walk into our living room and adjust my short black skirt so the lacy tops of my stockings show. My dark top has three-quarter sleeves, but it’s tight and low-cut, revealing the roundness of my breasts.
“Heels or hooker boots?” I call out to Olivia.
She walks into the living room and looks me over. “Boots.”
As I sit down and slide my black leather boots on, she’s kicking hers off.
“Holy shit, it feels good to get those off,” she says, rubbing the sole of one foot. “And what the hell is up with us flying coach, anyway? We’re out there risking our asses for intelligence information, the least our government can do is fly us first class so we can eat a decent meal.”
“You had a really shitty trip, didn’t you?”
She groans. “The shittiest. I got busted by a security guard, and he kicked my fucking ovaries into my throat.”
“You’ll have to catch me up later,” I say, grabbing my bag. “I’ve got to hit the office.”
“Good luck,” Olivia says, pulling the pins out of her dark blond hair.
The two of us have only known each other since we were paired up at the academy a year ago, but it feels like longer. The training to become a field agent for Greenlight, a black ops intelligence agency, brought us together quickly. We learned how to fight, use weapons, speak several languages passably, and covertly surveil people.
It beats the hell out of the boring desk job I’d probably have if I hadn’t been recruited by Greenlight. I have my brother-in-law Jude to thank for that. He recommended me for this job through his connections on the Senate intelligence committee. Only Jude and my sister Reagan know what I really do for a living. The rest of my family and friends think I work as a personal assistant to a demanding and very private executive. It’s how I explain working crazy hours and not being able to talk about what I do.
As soon as I step onto the sidewalk in front of our SoHo loft, a woman glances my way. Drawing attention as an undercover agent seems counterintuitive, but I learned in the academy that the best way to hide is to stand out.
And that, I’m damn good at.
Tonight, I’m meeting my handler, Rae, and then going to the Loft, a trendy nightclub with a massive underground operation. When I say underground, I’m talking in the basement of the club. Down there, high-dollar drug deals are made, illegal weapons are bought and sold, and more money is wagered in nightly poker games than most people earn in a year.
I got down there once with Alex Hassan, an arms dealer who loves coke and threesomes. Motherfucker bit down on my lip ring while he was kissing me and almost ripped it out.
Excerpt from Girl Breaker
By: Harper Kincaid
I could feel his eyes on me as I flipped through some papers, not really seeing a word. I was too aware of Max.
“Hmm,” he answered, his voice more measured now, “thanks again for helping out with Piper. I’m much obliged.”
“Not a problem.” I kept my eyes and head down, my hair blanketing around me. What other women used to attract the objects of their desire, I needed as a shield. There was just no way I wanted him to see the hurt and disappointment in my eyes.
His footsteps finally moved, but in the wrong direction, and, before I had a chance to react, he reached out and tucked my hair behind my ear. The way his fingertips grazed my skin sent a shiver through my body, making my nipples pucker underneath my blouse.
“There,” he said. “That’s better. Now I can see you before I go.”
“Please don’t do that anymore,” I pleaded, keeping my voice low and eyes focused downward. “I don’t like it. To be touched like that.”
I had to get out of that room. I blinked hard a couple of times while stepping away from the table, forgetting there was a chair directly behind me. I stumbled sideways, and he lunged forward, grabbing and pulling me to him. I flopped against the front of him, my feet still tangled together.
“Whoa, easy there, baby,” Max soothed as he lifted my frame off the ground in his embrace, allowing gravity to naturally do its thing and detangle my limbs. Then he gently eased me back down to the floor. But instead of letting go, he just held on tight. And dear Lord, everything that was Max Reinquist enveloped me: his woodsy-musky scent, the heat from his skin, the hunger and longing I caught in his eyes.
“You can let go of me,” I said, unable to look away from his penetrating stare. “I’ve got my balance back.”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t say anything, just kept looking back and forth between my eyes and my mouth. I ran the tip of my tongue across my bottom lip, silently hoping this was going to be the moment Max stopped running from us and finally kissed me, proving he didn’t see me as some uptight schoolmarm, that he had imagination enough to picture me with my hair down. I could be just as sexy as those biker chicks he usually liked. I just preferred to wear my bustiers under my clothes and behind closed doors. He was holding me tight now, taking me in. Could he sense all I was, all I kept hidden? Did he understand his untamable nature matched a wildness I usually kept contained?
He released his hold on me. “You’re right,” he answered. “No need for me to hold on, is there? You’re safe, not in any more danger.”
But I want you to hold on. I want you to claim me.
“No more danger,” I replied, my disappointment so palpable, I could taste it in my mouth. Romance novels constantly waxed on about how a lover’s kiss tasted like mint and cinnamon, fresh starts, and the honeyed heat of arousal.
But they never talked about the taste of not getting kissed, how the sour sticks to your tongue, travels down your throat. I’d had a whole summer—and now an autumn—of that kind of sour, and I’d never get used to it.
Somehow, I was able to collect myself enough to walk to my front door and open it wide. “Tell Piper she can come Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.”
I finally met his eyes. They were downcast, along with the corners of his mouth. He reminded me of some hangdog basset hound. Was he expecting me to make it easy for him?
He gave a nod. “Will do, Gingersnap.”
God, at first I’d hated that nickname because it made me feel like a kid. Now I couldn’t stand it because it felt like a painful reminder of something that could’ve been but never would be. The words stuck in my gut.
Just as I was about to shut the door, he stopped it with his foot.
“What is it?”
He pressed those lips of his into a thin, hard line, peering at me through his lashes. “I’m doing you a favor, you know, keeping things at arm’s length.”
I dug my nails into the meaty part of my palms. “Excuse me?”
“I’m not the right kind of man for you,” he went on. “But I’ll always look out for you, Gingersnap. You have my word.”
“Who are you trying to convince, you or me?”
Those pale green eyes of his darkened in a way I’ve never seen before, and that gorgeous mouth of his parted, as he skimmed his bottom lip with his tongue. Holding on to my doorframe, he leaned his body forward, almost coming face-to-face with me. He was all stretched out, like a panther ready to pounce.
“I’m a man who likes kink. I like control. And more than anything, I get off on a woman who owns her down-and-dirty side.” His voice rumbled through me. “I’m not one of those men who wants some doe-eyed innocent who doesn’t know her way around a cock. I hate that shit.
“I can’t deny you’re fucking beautiful and I get off on the way you stand up to me. Not many women have your guts and even fewer have your brains. And I know you’ve been waiting for me to make my move. I can’t deny I’d like to ease that ache you’ve got buildin’ there for me. It wouldn’t take me long to get you all worked up under me, begging for my tongue and my dick between your legs. But as much as I may love a good lick of vanilla, I know me and I’d get bored. So, I’m trying to do the right thing here. You get me?”
What an awful thing to do, I thought, to not even give me the illusion of the upper hand. Usually, I’d just freeze up, like a deer in headlights. I was great at handling confrontations when I was advocating for a student, but not so much when it came to myself.
But his arrogance and condescending attitude was so over-the-top, well, it burnt off any of my usual shyness. I couldn’t allow it. No way, no sir. Even if it meant I had to lie.
“Max, I don’t know what you think I was offering here, but I can assure you of a couple of things, one being that it takes a heck of a lot more than a wink and a smile to attract a real woman, but you wouldn’t know about that, considering the easy pickings I see troll around your place every week.”
His nostrils flared. “Is that right?”
Shaking my head, I kept going. “You’re an idiot. And you may be something in bed, but you don’t know the first thing about women.”
“You think that?”
“Yes…yes I do,” I replied, feeling myself getting even more worked up. “I ought to thank you, actually. All these months, I’ve been thinking you were this enigmatic, brilliant man, with your motorbikes and your Gothic fiction books, your love for documentaries and all these layers and layers of interesting,” I went on, waving my arms around. “All the more reason why I didn’t get the one-night stands with women named after booze and candy bars. But you’ve just cleared all that up. So, thank you. Thank you very much.”
He narrowed his gaze at me. Boy, he went from amused to pissed right quick, but I didn’t care one bit. I could even see the muscles in his jaw ticking away, right along with the vein in his neck. He was just about to say something, but this time, I was going to be the one to interrupt him.
“And by the way, for the record?” I took a couple steps into his space this time. “Just because a woman doesn’t like to let it all hang out doesn’t mean she isn’t wild. Don’t let the long skirts and laced-up boots fool you. If you were to get even a li’l taste of me, you would’ve discovered under my vanilla is a whole swirl of different flavors.” I grabbed his belt buckle and pulled him to me. “And all of them are very kink-friendly, just dying for the right man to own me.”
Those words wiped the pissed-off smug right off his face.