Authors: Hart, Liliana
THOMASBy Liliana HartCopyright 2011 by Liliana HartAmazon Edition
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Cat Randolph was a thief. A damned good one.
Her marks—a Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Bixby—were out for the evening, which was why she’d picked tonight to divest them of an artifact worth several million dollars. The Mayan mask was made of solid gold, and the percentage she got from this acquisition would add a very nice chunk of change to her retirement nest egg.
The darkness surrounded her as she used the shadows to reach the Bixby’s Hollywood Hills mansion. The pack on her back was light and unobtrusive, and the black spandex jumpsuit she wore clung to her body and allowed her movements to be fluid. A stocking cap covered her flame colored hair and thin black gloves protected her hands.
One of the streetlights in front of the palm-tree-lined, stone fence that enclosed the mansion had mysteriously gone out—careless of the security team if you asked her—and she counted the seconds off in her head as she made one last scan of the street. She was all alone. Perfect.
She climbed up a fat tree with the skill of a monkey and crawled out to the end of a sturdy branch. Timing was everything. If she landed on the other side of the massive stone fence at the wrong moment, she’d trip the infrared sensors and set off the alarms. She looked at her watch and set her timer. She knew every quirk of the Bixby’s alarm system. She’d made it her business to know.
The seconds ticked off in her head, and with a quick prayer, she leaped soundlessly to the ground below, landing in a crouch. She didn’t have time to waste. The sensors that scanned the ground never came close to the trees. It was a weakness she’d noticed immediately when she’d studied the schematics of the system.
She sprinted from one tree to the next, keeping to the shadows, until she was pressed against the side of the house. Her breathing was steady and her pulse was only slightly elevated because of the adrenaline rush breaking and entering gave her. The large, stained glass window the Bixby’s had installed in their bathroom was the only one in the house that wasn’t wired for security. Mrs. Bixby hadn’t wanted to ruin the design.
Cat took duct tape out of her bag and taped a square large enough for her body to squeeze through in the middle of the window. She grabbed the glass cutter and had the piece removed and set aside in less than two minutes.
The bathroom was dark, but her eyes adjusted quickly. She peaked into the empty hallway, listening for the creaks of floorboards or the tap of shoes. The house was silent as she followed the blueprints in her mind and crept down a long corridor toward the art gallery. She had seven minutes until the guards on duty made their rotation. Seven minutes to get in and get out.
The small electronic device in her pocket would take care of the cameras and put them on a constant loop. Getting past the infrared beams sweeping the floor would be the tricky part.
Her thumb rested on the timer of her watch and she counted the seconds in her head. She started her watch, cut off the cameras, and began the dance and sway across the floor of the gallery, avoiding the sweeping beams of red. She didn’t stop to admire the mask when she had it in her hands, but instead tucked it into her bag and made her way back out the way she’d come.
She didn’t hit the stop button on her watch until she was safely back outside the bathroom window.4:58. She’d heard the heavy footsteps of one of the guards just as she’d closed herself back in the bathroom. He was two minutes early.Shit. Cat sprinted towards the copse of trees at the perimeter of the property just as the alarms sounded.
Floodlights blinded her, and masculine shouts to stop drowned out the blood rushing in her ears. Gunshots had her ducking instinctively as she found the darkened street light. She scrambled up a tree and over the fence the same way she’d entered, and she was just about to drop to the ground below when another shot rang out.
Pain tore through her thigh, and she lost her balance, toppling the twelve feet to the street below. Cat ignored the twisted ankle caused from her fall and the blood soaking her clothes. Adrenaline surged through her veins, and she knew if she didn’t start moving then she was as good as dead. She pushed herself up and forced one foot in front of the other, keeping to the shadows until she reached the car she’d stashed two streets away.
Her body was slicked with sweat and her hands trembled with exhaustion as she slipped behind the driver’s seat. She pulled the cap from her head, letting her hair tumble free around her shoulders, and she grabbed a light jacket from the backseat of the black Audi and used her knife to slit it down the middle. The wound bled freely, and she tied the jacket around it tightly, hoping it would slow the bleeding.
Cat forced her hands to steady and turned the key in the ignition, making her way to a more populated area of town at a sedate pace and merging with the traffic. She had to get to the Montana-Canada border in the next two days. Her contact would be waiting for her there, and she could get rid of her treasure and collect her paycheck. She just had to make sure she didn’t pass out along the way.
Two Days Later…
If Thomas MacKenzie hadn’t witnessed the event with his own eyes, he never would have believed it.
He and his brothers had been working on the fence at the front of the MacKenzie property all morning long, repairing loose boards and scraping the peeling white paint. It was a hell of a job since the fence covered more than two acres of the land. The October afternoon was nice and cool, but he’d still worked up a generous sweat. He wiped his brow with the shirt he’d discarded hours before and took a slug of water from the bottle at his feet.
He shook his head in aggravation as his gaze locked with big brown eyes. The O’Neil’s had the land across the street, and they weren’t nearly so diligent about keeping their fence in good repair. Which was why several of the O’Neil’s cows had found their way into the two-lane road that divided the two families’ properties.
Thomas didn’t even have time to curse as he saw the black sedan come over the hill, barreling towards the roving cows. The driver saw them just in time and swerved to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, the twist of the wheel pointed the car at the MacKenzie’s newly repaired fence.
The screech of tires and the crash of metal and wood had Thomas running through the gaping hole in the fence after the runaway car. He heard his brother, Riley, shout after him, but he didn’t slow down. He winced when the car hit an old sycamore tree that had held a tire swing when he and his brothers were boys. His legs were long and it didn’t take him long to reach the accident.
Steam poured from the engine of the hood, and he could see a woman slumped over the wheel of the car. The crash hadn’t been hard enough for the airbags to deploy, so he wouldn’t have to worry about any of those resulting injuries. The biggest concern would be how hard she’d hit her head.
“Grab my bag, would you?” He yelled to Riley. “I’ll take her into the guest bedroom next to my office.”
“I’m on it,” Riley said.
He and Riley were the only two at the house that day. His brother, Dane, had gotten married the month before to Charlotte Munroe, or Charlie as everyone called her. Dane had been in love with for more than ten years, but circumstances had kept them apart until recently. Dane had left Surrender without knowing that Charlie was pregnant, and Charlie had left town soon after.
So needless to say, all the MacKenzies had been excited to welcome Charlie and her son to the family. Dane had moved into Charlie’s house soon after they’d reconnected, but he came by and kept Thomas company every once in a while. Usually when his book was giving him trouble.
His oldest brother, Cooper, was the Sheriff of Surrender, Montana, and he was working overtime because one of his deputies had gotten the flu. Cooper didn’t really live at the old farm house the brothers had grown up in anymore. It was easier for Coop to live in the apartment above the Sheriff’s office just in case he got an emergency call in the middle of the night. And it was easier for him to be discreet when he brought a lady home for the evening. All the brothers knew that Cooper’s taste in sex ran to the dark side, so they tried to respect that by staying away from his private quarters in town.
Riley was only eleven months older than Thomas, and he spent even less time at the house than Cooper did. Riley taught archaeology classes at the college in the next town over. When he wasn’t in class he was on a dig somewhere.
More often than not, it was Thomas left by himself to ramble around the big old house. Since he’d taken over Doc Shepherd’s position as Surrender’s only doctor two years before, he’d been all but married to the job. Because of his patient load, he’d finally decided to build a clinic and office onto the house, so there would be more time to see to the upkeep of the place.
The woman was stone still, and Thomas eased the car door open. The coppery tang of blood immediately overwhelmed his senses.
“Shit,” he murmured under his breath. “Miss? Can you hear me?” He felt for a pulse and noticed it was fast but strong. He ran his hands across the back of her neck and spine, checking for injuries, before gently lifting her head off the steering wheel. A nice sized lump was already forming on her forehead, and he frowned when he didn’t find a gash. He knew he smelled blood.
She moaned low and her eyelashes fluttered, but she didn’t come to. It wasn’t until he had one arm around her back and was slipping the other beneath her legs that he felt the syrupy wetness that coated his fingers. Her legs were covered in blood. Panic consumed him. What if she’d been pregnant? He hurried his steps so he was practically running.“Hold on, baby, I’ve got you.” He held her close as he made his way into the house.“What the hell?” Riley asked when he saw Thomas coming down the hall toward the guest room with his burden.“I don’t know,” Thomas answered. “Put a quilt on top of the bed for me. I don’t want to ruin the mattress.”
He waited until Riley had the quilt spread out before laying the woman down. It wasn’t until he laid her out flat that he saw the jagged tear in her thigh. He breathed a sigh of relief.She hadn’t lost a baby.
“Damn,” Riley whispered, eyeing the woman in a way that immediately had Thomas’s protective instincts rising.
He looked at his charge and felt something shift inside of him. Her hair was spread across the pillow and glowed like fire. She had a peaches and cream complexion that was flawless and way too pale. Small breasts and hips were outlined in the formfitting clothes she wore and emphasized legs that seemed to go for miles. He couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone so beautiful in his life.
“What can I do to help?” Riley asked.
“You can get out,” Thomas demanded, deciding he didn’t want his brother anywhere near her. “Make yourself useful and let Dane know that we need Charlie to tow her car to the shop.” Charlie owned the only automotive repair shop in town.
“I don’t know, Thomas. It doesn’t seem right to leave you alone with her.?”
“I’ve managed to see patients without your supervision for two years. I think I can manage.” Jealousy crept its way along Thomas’s spine as he saw the way Riley kept ogling the woman.
Riley raised a brow at the growl Thomas let loose. “So that’s how it’s going to be, is it? It’s a good thing I’ve got a date tonight or I might fight you for her.”
“You’d lose,” Thomas promised. “I believe I was the one who broke your nose the last time.”
“Yeah, I owe you for that. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, Doc.” Riley left the bedroom and shut the door behind him.
A small moan left the woman’s mouth, and Thomas got to work. He ran his hands up and down her body clinically. Other than the bump on the head, a minor ankle sprain and the cut in her thigh, she seemed to be okay. He wanted to get a look at the thigh wound before he gathered his supplies. Stopping the bleeding was his first priority.
He examined the ragged edges of flesh and cloth and knew what it was at first glance. There were too many hunting accidents in this part of the country for him not to know what a gunshot wound looked like. But she didn’t look like any hunter he’d ever seen, so the question was, how had she gotten shot? His first instinct was to call Cooper and have him start running a check on her, but something kept him from picking up the phone. He wanted to hear the reason out of her own mouth. He wanted her to be his. He couldn’t explain the possessive reaction. He just knew he’d never felt anything like it before in his life.
Thomas went through the connecting door to his office and prepared a tray with everything he’d need to treat her. She was thrashing around on the bed when he came back in, her eyes open but cloudy with fear and fever.
“Shh, sweetheart. It’s okay. Just lay back and relax.” It hardly took any effort at all to push her back to a horizontal position. She was weak as a kitten.
“I n…need to leave,” she said, her teeth chattering. “My phone…”
“I’ll have someone get your stuff for you and bring it here. All you need to worry about is getting better. Can you tell me your name?”
She jerked out of his grasp and tried to get off the bed. Her attempts to push him away were feeble at best.
“L…let me go. You c…can’t keep me here.”
“Watch me, sweetheart. You’re in Surrender, Montana. My name is Thomas, and I’m a doctor. The sooner you let me fix your leg, the sooner you can leave.”
Pain-filled laughter, verging toward hysteria, escaped from her white lips. “You’re a doctor?” she asked. “Am I dead? Is this heaven?”
“No, sweetheart. It’s Surrender.”
He smiled into her delirious eyes, though his brow creased with worry. Her fever was high and her teeth chattered violently. She caught him by surprise when she brought her hand up and rested it on his cheek. Thomas froze. Her skin felt like satin, and he had the most insane urge to nuzzle against her hand and kiss her palm.
She smiled sweetly and stared at him with a depth that made him yearn. “My fallen angel,” she said, and passed out into a quiet sleep.
Thomas released the pent up breath he’d been holding and brushed her hair back from her face.
“And you’re mine, sweetheart. You just don’t know it yet.”
He pulled his tray close and gave her a shot to counteract the fever. Her clothes were ruined and bloody, and he tried not to notice how perfectly she was formed as he stripped her naked. He threw a sheet over her body and exposed only the upper flesh of her thigh, trying like hell to keep a sense of propriety. The sight of her pale flesh marred with bruises and the jagged wound was enough to have his fists clenching in fury.
What the hell had happened to her?
He washed away the blood on her leg and gave her a local anesthetic before checking to see if the bullet was still lodged inside. It wasn’t, so he began work on extracting the fibers from her clothes and then pulled the flesh together with small, neat stitches. When he was finished, he wrapped it in gauze. Her ankle was almost healed and didn’t need a brace, and her head could probably use an ice pack. A good night’s sleep is what she needed most. That and a good meal to replenish her strength.
Thomas held her hand loosely in his own, finding comfort in the simple touch.
“I came as soon as I heard,” Cooper said from the doorway.
He’d been so lost in thought he hadn’t heard his brother open the door. The late afternoon sun shone through the French doors that led to the deck outside, and he looked down at his watch. No wonder his neck was sore. He’d spent more time watching his unknown guest sleep than it had taken to tend her wounds.“Did you get the car towed?” Thomas asked.“Yeah, and I started a trace on the plates so I could get you a name.”Thomas froze. He knew that specific tone of voice his brother rarely used. Bad news.
“The plates traced to a woman named Lucy Rowe. A little digging into her background showed her deceased as of two years ago. Miss Rowe had no living relatives and no record of ever owning a black Audi. When I looked a little further I noticed Miss Rowe had only acquired a social security number four years ago. The whole setup is bogus. I’m going to have some questions for your patient when she wakes up.”
Thomas kept his back to Cooper as he adjusted the woman’s sheet so it covered the bandage on her thigh completely. Cooper was much too good at reading facial expressions, especially his brothers’ facial expressions.
“Riley said she was covered in blood.”
Thomas cursed his older brother and his big mouth. “I stitched her up,” he said, omitting what had caused the wound. “The bump on her head and the fever is my biggest concern now.”
“Thomas,” Cooper said. “I want to know the minute she wakes up. Do you understand? She could be dangerous.”
He didn’t want to believe it. There was no way the woman who had looked at him with such trusting innocence could be a criminal. But he knew Cooper could be a bulldog about such things, so he nodded his head in agreement.
“I expect she’ll be out through the night and morning. You might come by after dinnertime tomorrow and see if she’s up to answering your questions.”
“Fine. I brought the bag I found in the backseat of her car.” Coop put it on top of the dresser. “There was no ID. Just a cell phone. It’s a disposable, so it’s not registered to anyone. I can bunk here tonight if you’d feel more comfortable.”
Thomas gave Coop a look of pure injured male pride. “You think I’m scared of a woman? You’re overreacting. I’m sure she has a reasonable explanation for everything. Stop being so suspicious.”“That’s why they pay me the big bucks.”“Besides, if she knocks me unconscious and robs us blind, Riley will be here to call you to the rescue.”“Negative to that. Susie Mobley invited him to her house for dinner. You’ll be lucky to see him till after lunch tomorrow.”“She does make a damned good peach pie,” Thomas said with a laugh. “Maybe he’ll bring us back a slice.”
“I’ve had a slice of that pie, thanks. It has a tendency to be too clingy and demand marriage. I think I’ll pass on any more pie from Susie. Someday, Riley will learn that some pies aren’t worth eating.”
Thomas couldn’t help but snort out a laugh. “Get out of here and go give someone a parking ticket.”
Cooper closed the door behind him and Thomas moved to get up and stretch, but some sixth sense had him looking into the face of his patient. Dark blue eyes stared at him through a fringe of russet lashes. Her lips were pressed into a thin line of pain, and her face was flushed with fever. But she was awake. That was a start.
“How much of that conversation did you hear?” Thomas asked, automatically touching the back of his hand against her forehead. “Hold that thought.” He went to the kitchen and brought her back a glass of orange juice and then tapped three Tylenol into his hand.
“I don’t want anything to drink,” she rasped out as he folded her fingers around the glass. “I’m not thirsty.”
“Drink it anyway. You need to replenish your fluids, and I imagine you’ve got a hell of a headache to go with the bump and the fever.”
He almost laughed at the mutinous look in her eyes as he forced her to take the pills and drink the juice. A redhead’s temper to go along with the soft hands and peaches n’ cream complexion. She was a fighter. And that turned him on like crazy.
He felt the slow burn of desire start low in his stomach, and he sat down in the chair by the side of the bed to keep her from noticing his erection. It was a hell of time to for his libido to wake up. He’d been too busy with his newfound position to do much dating lately. And he’d had no desire to mess around with the women who were desperate enough to fake a sickness just so they could try and molest him in his office.
He crossed his leg over his knee and cleared his throat. “So are you going to answer my question? How much of the conversation did you hear between me and my brother?”
“Enough to know that he thinks I’m a criminal, and he has rather loose morals. I don’t think I like your brother. Do you share all your women?”
“Cooper has his moments. And no, we don’t share our women. But this is a small town and there’s not a huge dating pool. That’s part of the reason I haven’t dated anyone since I opened my practice here. I’m Thomas, by the way. Thomas MacKenzie.”“Yeah, I remember you telling me that before.”“Now it’s your turn to tell me your name. That’s how introductions work.”“I couldn’t tell you my name even if I wanted to?”“And why’s that?”“Because I can’t remember it.”
Cat saw the disbelief and disappointment in her rescuer’s eyes just before he carefully blanked his expression. She found it strange that she instinctively wanted to reassure him. She didn’t want to disappoint him. But common sense kicked in and she pressed her mouth shut before she could spill out her life story.
It didn’t matter if Thomas MacKenzie believed her. It’s not like she’d ever see him again. All that mattered was no one found out who she was before she’d healed enough to make an escape and deliver the item she’d been contracted for.
The mask was hidden under the wheel well of the car, wrapped in protective plastic. If the sheriff became too suspicious, she wouldn’t put it past him to do a complete search of the car. She had to move the mask before he found out she was claiming a lost memory. As soon as she had a minute alone she’d call her contact and let him know things had gotten complicated and the shipment would be delayed. The buyers wouldn’t be happy, but there was nothing they could do about it.
Cat had a feeling the sheriff was going to be a problem. He was a big bruiser of a man. He was similar in looks to Thomas—black hair and a rugged athleticism that spoke of plenty of time spent outdoors. They were both tall men, but the older brother was huge. She’d never want to cross him in an alley. His eyes had been like chips of blue ice, where as Thomas’s reminder her of melted chocolate.
Speaking of her doctor…he was going to be an even bigger problem than his older brother. His face was one of pure beauty—the kind of man who’d hit the genetic lottery and knew it. Those melted chocolate eyes were framed by a long sweep of lashes she’d kill for. His lips were full and sensual and made her lower body throb with need. His cheeks were stubbled with a day’s growth of beard, and from what she’d seen of his body when he’d been standing, there wasn’t a soft spot on him. Anywhere.
“Hmm, well, you hit your head pretty hard,” Thomas said. “Maybe I should just make up a name for you until you can remember your own, hmm?”His eyes were teasing and she had the sudden urge to roll her eyes. “You’re a pretty nosy doctor.”“In a town this size, everyone’s middle name is nosy. I think I’ll call you Matilda. How does that sound?”“Horrid.”“Yeah. I think it’s perfect.”“You’re a lunatic.”
His fingers touched the ends of her hair, and she wanted to beg him for something more, but she wasn’t sure what. His smile dimmed and he looked at her with a sincerity that frightened her.
“I think it’d be pretty hard to forget if someone was shooting at me, but I’m sure things will come back to you in no time once you get a little rest.” He cleared his throat and seemed a little embarrassed. “I know you don’t know me, but I want you to know you can trust me. Anything you want to tell me will stay between the two of us. Doctor-patient privilege and all that.”
Cat felt tears prick at her eyes and broke the gaze. She hadn’t had anyone to lean on since her father’s death when she was eighteen. He hadn’t been much of a father even before then, considering he’d been in prison for grand larceny. But this man…there was something about him that made herwantto trust him. She just wanted him period. And the thought scared the hell out of her.
“All right, Matilda. Keep your secrets. I like a challenge. I hope you realize the can of worms you’ve opened. I won’t rest until I know everything about you.” His gaze raked down her body in a slow, sinuous gaze that had her nipples puckering to tight buds beneath the sheet. He noticed immediately, of course. The rat.
Cat inhaled a quick breath as he leaned closer—close enough so she could feel the warmth of his breath against her lips. He traced the pad of his thumb across her bottom lip, and her eyes fluttered closed in surrender.
“I didn’t realize you’d hurt your lip,” he said.
Her eyes snapped open in surprise, and she stared straight into his satisfied expression. He knew exactly what kind of effect he had on her.
“You must have bitten it when the car hit the tree. I know just the thing to make it feel better.”
He moved closer and rubbed his lips against hers—a soft touch that captured her heart even as it aroused. She would have pressed him for more. In fact, she wanted more—the harder press of mouth against mouth, the swirl of tongue and the bite of teeth. But he backed away, the flame of desire hot in his eyes and his control rigid. He was compelling her to confide in him, to trust him, without the use of words
Cat stared at him with defiant determination. She wouldn’t be intimidated by Thomas MacKenzie. Nothing could intimidate her. She’d been raised with felons. His lips quirked in an amused smile at her stubbornness and his gaze lowered to her mouth once more. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks in embarrassment of how readily she would have accepted him again, and she made herself turn away and close her eyes.
“I think I’d like to sleep now, if you don’t mind. I’m really tired.”
“Sure, sweetheart.” He ran his fingers along her hair once more. “If you need anything there’s an intercom on the wall over there. Try not to walk on that leg just yet. It’s just a flesh wound and there wasn’t any serious muscle or nerve damage, but it’s going to be sore for a couple of days. I wouldn’t want you to pull open the stitches.”
“Sure, Doc. And thanks. That cow scared the hell out of me. Driving on the 101 in LA is nothing compared to the streets of Nowhere, Montana.”
“It’s Surrender, honey. And it takes some getting used to. Especially for a stubborn red-head like yourself.”
Cat narrowed her eyes as he left the room and wondered what she’d just missed. Thomas MacKenzie was going to have to be watched if she was going to make an escape. She tried to tamp down the emptiness that filled her soul at the thought of leaving him. She closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep. She had a big night ahead of her.
The night was completely black. Clouds lay like thick quilts across the sky, snuffing out the stars and sliver of moon. Cat lay in bed, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness, before throwing her legs over the edge. She bit back an oath as her feet hit the cold wood floors. The stitches in her leg pulled with every move she made and the painkiller Thomas had given her had worn off. The muscle throbbed, and she breathed deeply and blinked tears out of her eyes as she put her full weight on it.
She went to the bathroom and took care of necessities and then washed her face in the sink. She needed clothes and shoes, and she needed to know where the hell she was. She remembered passing an auto shop on her way into town—before the cows ruined her life. If the Charlie that owned the shop was the same person Thomas had mentioned earlier, then she knew where to find her car. But first she had to steal one.
The clothes came first, though. Fortunately, her host had taken care of that for her. A pair of men’s dark grey sweats and white socks sat folded on the dresser. She sat down to dress, afraid to put weight on just one leg, and then covered her hair with a black bandana she found after rummaging through all of the dresser drawers.
The house was completely still. The clock on her bedside table said it was just after three AM. She slipped down the long hall that led to the family quarters. The part of the house that held Thomas’s office and exam rooms were contained to one side of the farm style building. The main family rooms were open and airy. Comfortable was the first word that came to mind. It was a house for a family, with overstuffed furniture and a big kitchen. The shelves were cluttered with family photos and a smattering of random sports paraphernalia that looked well used.
It was the kitchen where she found exactly what she was looking for. A set of keys sat in an oversized ceramic bowl on the blue tiled countertop, and she found paperclips and a screwdriver in a drawer. Cat stuffed them in her pockets and slipped out the kitchen door into the darkness, doing what she did best. Blending with the shadows.
A black Jeep was parked at the side of the house. She recognized the French Doors that led into her room, and noticed there was another set of doors leading into the room next door. A sign hung on the door that saidCall if There’s an Emergency, and a number was printed below in a messy scrawl. Obviously the doctor’s office entrance.
Cat slid into the Jeep, ignoring the blood that was beginning to seep through the bandage at her thigh and her sweats, and started the engine. She didn’t turn the headlights on until she was a good ways down the road. If all went well, she’d be back in bed in a half hour.
The entire town was dead to the world. There wasn’t even a 24-hour gas station. She didn’t know how people lived like this. Cut off from civilization. On second thought, the people of Surrender probably weren’t that much different than she was. Except for the whole thief thing. In her line of work, it wasn’t like she could have any close friends or a relationship.
It didn’t take her long to findCharlie’s Automotive. It was the first building on the way into town—a neat, white metal building with a blue awning over the garage bays. Two planter boxes flanked the front door and spilled over with green ivy and yellow flowers. If she hadn’t known going in that Charlie was a woman, she would have guessed just by looking at the place. Despite the masculinity of auto repair, the garage had a decidedly feminine touch. It was nice.
In fact, the whole town was nice. The businesses were neat and in good repair—old two story brick and mortar buildings connected to one another like town homes. Old fashioned streetlights flickered along the sidewalks and carnations were planted in wooden barrels in front of all the stores. It wasreallynice, and greedy fingers of envy wound through her.
Cat saw the wrecked Audi through the window of one of the big garage doors, so she drove the Jeep around to the back of the building, where she spied another entrance. It only took her a few seconds to pick the lock on the door with the paperclip and slip inside. Motor oil and grease assaulted her senses as she crept between the cars. The Audi’s front end was in pretty sad condition, but there was no damage to the rear. She stuck her hand under the back wheel well and felt the bag taped there. Cat ripped it free and left as quietly as she’d come.
She found her way back to the MacKenzie house with little trouble and deposited the Jeep back where she found it. The locks on the French door to her room were no challenge at all, so she let herself in and dropped down on the bed. Her body was covered in sweat from exertion and the blood was flowing a little freer at her thigh. She pulled the bandana from her head and tossed it aside. She might have overdone it a little.
Cat stripped the sweatpants from her body and was hobbling to the bathroom to try and repair the damage when the lights flipped on.
“I was wondering if you’d be back,” Thomas said. “You don’t seem like a complete idiot at first glance, but then again, what do I know? I’m just a doctor. Most people listen when I tell them to take it easy or they might make things worse. I guess you’re the exception to the rule.”
“I’m always the exception to the rule.” She threw a smile at him over her shoulder and froze. His shoulder was propped against the door that led to his office. His chest was bare, and she almost swallowed her tongue at the sight of tanned skin and a rippling six pack. His jeans were unbuttoned and sat low on his hips and his feet were bare. She had to force herself to act as if the sight of his didn’t make her lose her wits.
“Don’t be so uptight, Doc. I just stepped out on the deck for a few minutes for some fresh air. I’m on my way to the bathroom and then back to bed. I promise. Thanks for checking on me, but as you can see, I’m perfectly fine.”
Cat didn’t look to see if he’d left, but kept going towards her destination. She heard him mutter something that sounded something perilously close tobullshit, and all of a sudden his arm around her waist, supporting her weight.
“Dammit, I don’t need any help. Why can’t you leave me alone?”
“Sweetheart, leaving you alone has been the farthest thing from my mind since I saw your unconscious body in the front seat of your car. I think you’d better resign yourself to getting used to me.”
Cat gave him an aggravated look and wrapped her arm around him. They hobbled together into the spacious bathroom and he picked her up and sat her on the edge of the sink.
“Stay,” he ordered. “I’ll be right back.”
She leaned her head back against the mirror and closed her eyes. She was in a whole heap of trouble, and she had no idea had to get out of it. This wasn’t a situation she’d ever found herself in before. She’d been a professional thief for six years, ever since she’d gotten word her father was out of the picture for good, and until now she’d never been hurt or even close to being caught while on a job. And now all that had happened and more, and she was at the mercy of a small town doctor who made her want to molest every delectable inch of him. But worst of all, she needed his help. And she didn’t like being at anyone’s mercy.
The touch of gentle hands against her skin had her eyes snapping open. His head was even with her thighs and he raised the oversized sweatshirt above the bandage. The feel of his fingers against her bare flesh had her nipples tightening to peaks and her loins quickening with desire. The sting in her leg was overshadowed by the throbbing pulse of desire in her clit.“The damage isn’t too bad,” he said. “I just need to clean it off and rebandage it.”“I told you it wasn’t a big deal. Do you overreact with all your patients?”“Just you, sweetheart.”
He cleaned the blood away and spread a topical pain killer along the stitches. After it was wrapped in fresh bandages Cat moved to get down off the counter. Having his face between her thighs was driving her crazy. She was soaking wet with desire, and since she wasn’t wearing panties all he’d have to do is look at the inside of her thighs to see the moisture there. It was beyond mortifying.
“Getting up so soon?” he asked.
His gaze was exactly where she’d been afraid it would be. His nostrils flared as he breathed her in and he touched his lips with the edge of his tongue. Cat moaned and her head dropped back against the mirror as he moved his fingers further up her thighs.
“Shh, sweetheart. I’m going to have to taste you. Those red curls, dewy with your need for me, are driving me insane. Just a little taste.”
He kissed the inside of her thigh, first one, then the other, lapping at the juices that had escaped from her weeping pussy. And then his mouth was there, exactly where she wanted it. His breath feathered along her curls just before he flicked his tongue across the taut bud of her clit.
“Mmm, so sweet. Just as I thought. Scoot down some.” He opened her thighs wider, careful not to bump the bandage, and pulled her closer to the edge of the vanity. “Perfect.”
His mouth returned with renewed hunger, and she couldn’t help but thrust her hips against him. She cried out as his fingers joined his mouth, sliding the long length inside with a smooth push. He worked his finger back and forth before adding a second, his tongue keeping up the relentless pressure.
She couldn’t hold back from the dual assaults. Heat gathered low in her womb and spiraled out through her limbs in a violent burst of pleasure. Spasms wracked her body, and she cried out for mercy, but he didn’t stop. He was ruthless in his pursuit, alternating between slow thrusts of his fingers and long licks with his tongue that touched every pleasure point she had.
“Thomas, please. I want…”
“I know, sweetheart. But tonight is for you.”
He moved away and picked her up in his arms, cradling her against his chest as he carried her to the bed. She nuzzled against him, drawing in the clean scent of soap from his shower and something more. Something male and primal.
He set her down by the edge of the bed and stripped the sweatshirt over her head. His eyes darkened with pleasure, and his hands came up to cup her breasts.“Your injuries are the only thing keeping me from losing control.”“What injuries?” Cat asked.“Don’t tempt me, sweetheart. We’ll get to everything. Eventually.”
“I want to see you, too.” She ran her fingers along the edge of his jeans and felt the swell of sexual power take her as he sucked in a breath. The enormous bulge behind his zipper was straining the seams of the denim. She lowered the zipper slowly and gasped as he was freed into her hand.
“Christ,” he said. His fingers wrapped around her hand and he showed her how he liked to be stroked.
“Are you sure you can’t be tempted for something a little more? I promise I’m not feeling any pain right now.”
“Oh, I can be tempted. But fortunately my brain is in working order when it comes to hurting my partners during sex. I’d feel like a bastard if your stitches came loose because of me.”
“Maybe you can be tempted in other ways then.” Cat licked her lips and moved so she sat on the edge of the bed.
“Maybe I can.”
She positioned Thomas so he stood directly in front of her and pushed his jeans around his ankles. Her nails raked over his stomach and down his thighs, and she smiled as his cock bobbed in front of her face. He was thick and long, with veins ridged along his shaft and a plump head that would play hell with her G-spot once she got him inside her.
Cat licked him from shaft to tip, stopping to nibble at the sensitive spot beneath his cock head. He sucked in a harsh breath and she took him in completely. Swallowing him down until he touched the back of her throat. He wound his fingers through her hair and held tight as she fucked him with her mouth.
“Yesss…” he hissed. “Your mouth feels so fucking good.”
She moaned around him and he twitched against her tongue. She cupped his balls with her hand and felt them draw tight against his body. She worked up and down him faster, opening her throat to take his as deep as possible while massaging him with the flat of her tongue.
“Shit, I’m going to come. Let me taste you too.”
He didn’t give her any choice in the matter. He pulled out of her and lifted her to her feet, switching their positions so he laid flat on the bed.
“Watch your leg,” he said, pulling her on top of him so her legs straddled his face.
Her leg was the last thing she was thinking about. She wasn’t feeling anything but anticipation and pleasure as his tongue found her clit again. She bent forward and took him back in her mouth, her actions frenzied as he brought her close alarmingly quick.
The moans and sounds of sucking flesh echoed in the room. Salty moisture seeped from the tip of his cock and she knew he was close. His tongue flicked rapidly against her and she lost control. Her body shook and she moved harder against his face. Sensations rioted through her until she was nothing more than an exposed nerve ending. The cock in her mouth was just an extension of her own body.
“Fuck,” Thomas yelled.
She swallowed his seed like a starving woman as he drank in her own essence. She collapsed on top of him, tiny shivers coursing through her body. Thomas MacKenzie could become addictive. And that didn’t bode well for her master plan at all.
Thomas was done for. He was ruined for any other woman.
He faced the revelation like he did most things in life: with a shrug of the shoulders and good humor. As far as he was concerned, his destiny was already determined. There was no point fighting against it.