Read an Excerpt
His Southern Temptation
The Boys Are Back In Town Series
By Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon Hopson
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Robin Covington
All rights reserved.
"It's twenty dollars for the lap dance. Ten more for a hand job, twenty extra for a blow job, and thirty for full service. No kissing on the lips, and you gotta wear a condom."
David "Lucky" Landon lounged back on the fake leather couch taking up most of the space in the little room reserved for private lap dances at the Jolly Gent Strip Club, and watched as the young woman rattled off access to her body like it was no more intimate than letting someone borrow her phone.
The girl — no more than nineteen — wore too much makeup behind the Mardi Gras — style mask that all the dancers wore, but even through the narrow slits he noted that her eyes were jaded. His travels around the world had taught him that life was hard when you were poor and uneducated, no matter if you were in Afghanistan or a little town just outside of Elliott, Virginia. This girl was living proof.
He settled back on the seat, watching as the she ate him up with her eyes and lingered on the bulge in his jeans with pointed interest. His dick, normally able to offer up at least a half salute for a beautiful woman, didn't even twitch with interest. This place made his skin crawl. He just wanted to conduct his business and get the hell out of here.
Ebony — the girls at the Jolly Gent had the worst stage names — took his silence as her cue to get up close and personal and convince him she was worth fifty dollars and fifteen to twenty minutes of his time. Quicker than he anticipated, she straddled his lap, crushing her breasts against him and starting a slow grind against his groin. Lucky lifted his hands, careful to look like he was enjoying it for any hidden cameras, but avoiding actually touching what she offered.
Leaning in close, he whispered, "How much does it cost for information on Sarah Morgan?" Grasping her waist lightly when she tensed and pulled back, he continued. "Are there cameras in here?"
She nodded a quick yes against his cheek.
"Well, keep doing what you're doing and make it look good while I ask you some questions."
"You a cop? I'm not looking for any trouble. I've got a little girl to feed —" Ebony's words ended on a half sob.
Lucky rubbed her back, a soothing touch only, but whoever was playing digital Peeping Tom wouldn't know the difference.
"Sssh. I'm not a cop, just a PI looking for some information. I'll pay your full service rate." The girl's tension eased slightly, her movements against his body growing looser as her fear lessened. "I'm looking for Sarah Morgan. She's got family that's worried about her, and I just need to know if you've seen her."
"Nobody knows where she went. That girl had ambition — she was always talking about heading to Vegas and dancing in one of those nice places where the bouncers keep the customers' hands off you on stage." Her voice picked up an edge of excitement with a heavy dose of awe. "They have real costumes and everything out there."
"Uh-huh. I'm sure they're nice. Did Bodean know she was leaving?"
"No, man. It was dumb enough for her to start screwing the boss, but she was real careful not to let him know about her plans." Ebony paused, the hesitation creeping into her mind translating through the slackening of her touch. He was a pro at reading people, and Ebony knew something. She was also wondering if she should tell him. He plastered on what he hoped was his most lady-killing smile and nodded in encouragement for her to continue. Hopefully he could get her to spill without offering more money.
"She was sleeping with Bodean Taggert?" When she leaned in, gyrating and grinding to the low beat pulsing throughout the club, he continued. "Did she stay with him? Move in?" If the answer was yes, then getting into Bodean's trailer was going to be a priority.
"No. She liked to keep him in his place. She made sure she had room to work her other angles."
"Work other angles? You mean other boyfriends?"
Ebony nodded, her expression turning cautious. Her fingers tightened on his shoulders, body tensing like a deer getting ready to bolt into the woods when he was out hunting in his beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. Too bad she didn't know that he always got his prey before they knew what hit them.
"So, who's the other guy? Or guys?" Lucky asked as his head started to hurt. If Sarah was screwing around with multiple assholes, then his search radius just grew exponentially. Shit, this pro bono case was taking on epic proportions the more time he spent chasing down this girl.
"Time's up." Ebony focused on a spot over his shoulder as she shot off his lap and started backing toward the opening in the curtain surrounding the space. She hadn't even asked him for her money. One glance at her face and he knew why — she was scared shitless. "No more questions. I already ran my mouth too much."
"Hey, wait. Who's this other guy?" He never took his eyes off her as he drew out his wallet and pulled out the money. He kept his movement loose, always mindful that pervy Big Brother was watching. "There's another twenty in it for you."
Ebony cast another worried glance at the place over his shoulder. He fought the urge to turn and confirm that the camera was located there.
"Look, just give me my money and leave me alone." Ebony scrabbled for the bills, dropping a couple in her haste to get out of this room. She hissed up at him as she bent over to retrieve the cash. "I already told you too much, and these people don't joke about getting even. Look what happened to Sarah."
"Wait." Lucky reached out to grab her arm, but she was fast, pushing back the curtain and letting in the sickly glow from the tacky stage lights and the full brunt of the terrible eighties hair band music blaring out from the crappy sound system. In a flash, she disappeared behind a door marked Employees Only — the one place he couldn't go if he wanted to keep this low-key. Her quick departure had already drawn stares and smirks, so he let her go.
"Shit." Lucky wove through the crowd. It was Friday, and many of the local losers who couldn't get a woman unless they paid her were lined up to spend their paychecks. He ignored the glares from some of the men when he had to shove to get past them. They were all drunk enough that he could take them in a fight, but that didn't fit in with the plan to blend in with the crowd. Spying Jack Cantrell sitting at a table wedged into the back of the room, he slid into the seat next to him, taking the beer he offered.
"Remind me to tell you to fuck off the next time you say a case is going to be easy," Lucky grumbled as he took a swig of his brew.
Jack laughed, his eyes scanning the crowd like the ex-FBI agent he was. "You jumped at this case, asshole. As I recall the situation, I was prepared to decline when you said Mrs. Morgan was so pitiful and then offered to do it for free."
"Well, then I should kick your ass for not talking me out of it."
"You know you're covered in stripper body glitter, right?" Jack asked, the beer bottle tipped up to his lips not quite covering the shit-eating grin.
Lucky looked down. His dark T-shirt was covered in smudges of sparkly dust. He rubbed at his chest and only succeeded in expanding the artificial galaxy around more of the cloth and getting it all over his fingers.
"Damn it, Jack. Next time you're getting the lap dance."
"Hell, no. Kayla would kill me. Or worse ... she'd cut me off. I'm still getting newlywed sex and that would be a real shame." Jack snickered, barely stifling the gut-busting laugh, but unable to stop his shoulders from shaking from the effort. He reached a hand up, his finger pointing to Lucky's chin. "You've got it on your face."
Lucky swatted the hand away, swiping his own fingers across his cheek and groaning at the extra glitter now on his digits. "Damn it. I'm done. Let's get out of here."
Lucky shoved his empty beer bottle away from the edge of the table and motioned for them to leave. Jack stood with him, pushing through the crowd and the stifling haze of sweat, beer, and too much Old Spice. The door swinging shut behind them was like a portal to another dimension, one where the summer air was humid but clean, and the thrumming beat of bad stripper music was second to the chirp of the cicadas.
It took a minute for Lucky's eyes and ears to adjust to the sudden change, but he was alert to any unseen company hidden in the shadows of the parking lot. The gravel yard would be empty until the drunks inside had one too many and came outside to prove their manhood by busting each other's heads open on the hard ground.
"I take it your little private-room interrogation didn't go well?" Jack asked, his gaze curious. "Ms. Ebony didn't fall for your many charms?'
"Hardly." Lucky scanned the lot, making sure they were really alone before he started talking about something that could get his reluctant informant in trouble with her boss. He remembered her mention of a little girl, and he didn't want to be the one who cost her the job.
"Ebony freaked out and bolted, but she did give me some new info before she took off. Here's the big news. Sarah Morgan was sleeping with Bodean."
"Shit, that's disgusting."
"I know. I know." Lucky tried not to heave at the thought. Bodean was a skinny guy with nasty teeth and a rapidly increasing bald spot. Sarah was a pretty girl with green eyes and blond hair. Her crowning assets were a pair of store-bought D-cups earned with two years of tips — according to her mother. Apparently, she was very goal- oriented. "Bodean is a troll, but she was screwing him and someone else on the side. Well, I think it was one other someone. Ebony wasn't clear on that point."
"Who's the other guy?"
"I don't know. That's when she shut up and took off like a deer in open season." Lucky shook his head, clenching his fists in frustration at being so close to good intel. "All I know is that the thought of crossing whoever he is scared Ebony shitless. She said he was the kind of person who got even and implied that's what happened to Sarah."
"Do you think she was telling the truth?"
"I don't think she's a good enough actress to fake that kind of scared."
"So, what next? We've done background checks on the girls and the other employees." Jack fished his keys out of his pocket, using them as a pointer when he spoke again. "Maybe dig deeper into Bodean's finances, see if the money leads us to someone."
"Good idea. I'll keep visiting, but I think we need a woman to try to get the girls to talk. They all clam up like I still smell like a cop."
"Maybe someone from Roanoke PD would like a side job? Be willing to go undercover? I could ask around and see."
"Yeah, that might work. A woman in the same line of work would be able to get them to spill. If Ebony is right, then Sarah might be in real trouble." Lucky paused, thinking through the different scenarios that might play out from this night's information-gathering. "Any cop needs to play it solid. Those girls would sniff out a fake a mile away."
"You got someone else in mind?" Jack asked.
"No." He rubbed a hand over his eyes. They were gritty and tired from too many nights at the Jolly Gent and long days on the farm. "I'll sleep on it. I need to hit the sack."
"Okay, I'm going to head home to Kayla." Jack peered down at his watch, a smile twisting up the corner of his mouth. "She should still be up."
"Whatever. I'm going to a lonely bed in Elliott House." At Jack's quizzical look, he said, "I got roped into house-sitting. Teague doesn't want the house empty when he's in DC so much. He asked me to stay for a while."
"I thought you were going to stay with Beck."
Lucky thought of their childhood friend. Dr. Beckett Sutherland frequently had overnight guests and his condo had crappy soundproofing. Not a great combination when you needed to crash and weren't currently getting any.
"No, Beck has too many visitors as it is." Lucky dug into his pocket for his keys, shaking his head at his temporary state of homelessness. "The only other alternative to house-sitting was moving back in with my folks at the farm."
"Oh, hell no," Jack said.
"Yeah. So, I'll bunk down in Teague's old room and hang out with the generations of dead Elliotts haunting the halls. It'll be like living in a morgue but with a huge flat-screen."
"Do you ever think about her?" Jack asked. He didn't even have to explain whom he meant. They both knew the woman in question. That was the problem with having your best friend also be your first cousin and know everything about you since the day you were born. There was nowhere to hide when those drunken confessions came back to visit.
Lucky sighed, but didn't hesitate with his answer. "Every time I close my eyes, man. Every damn time."CHAPTER 2
You never forgot the sound of a round chambered in a gun three feet away from your head.
Lucky froze in place, his training as a Marine and the years spent in the desert trying not to get his ass shot off kicked in on pure instinct. No sudden moves. Do what they say, and wait for the chance to disarm the asshole and make him hurt.
Sounded like the best Friday night he'd had in a long time.
"Don't move or I'll shoot. I called the police and they're on their way."
Lucky perked up at the sound of his captor's voice — a woman. Not that he for one minute underestimated the power of a woman to take him down, but it did give him some options once he got the gun out of the equation. He hoped she wasn't some kind of secret ninja who could seriously clean his clock before he knew what hit him. Martial arts were definitely not his thing.
He swept a quick glance around the dark room, assessing available things to use as a weapon, and groaned. The place was stuffed to the gills with priceless antiques collected by generations of Elliotts and hauled by some poor schmuck off the boat and all the way across Virginia. If he damaged one little fiber on the expensive rugs under his feet, Mrs. Elliott would have him castrated. With a rusty spoon.
Nope, he needed to try to wrap this up with as few property insurance claims as possible.
"Now, sugar, I think we can work this out." Lucky dropped the tenor of his voice into the low, gravely cadence that usually worked with the opposite sex. It was shameless, but so was pulling a weapon on a guy in the dark. "Why don't you put down the gun and we'll talk?"
"Ha! Save it. You can try to sweet-talk the cops." Her voice was firm, but possessed the lilt of a woman bred in this part of the country. "Sheriff Cantrell will be here any minute, and you can explain to him and your lonely cellmate, Bubba, why you broke in."
Shock snapped up his spine as his head whipped up and jerked around at what she said, instantly noting her mistake about the name of the current sheriff. Who was this chick? She knew the name of the former sheriff but not the new one. Not a current local, then. He shifted and lowered his hands a fraction of an inch. It was gloomy in the darkened room, but in his peripheral vision he saw her hoist the gun up a little higher and lower her finger to the trigger.
"Whoa, buddy. Move another inch and the cops will need to bring an ambulance with them." Her drawl had turned icy and very calm. Not a good sign. Shrieking, hysterical people were easier to deal with because they were sloppy and gave you more chances to disarm them. Unflappable women who knew how to use a gun were the ones you worried about the most.
This one knew how to use a gun.
"Hey, don't get all twitchy. You just surprised me." He held his hands up higher, lacing them behind his head to let her know he didn't mean any harm. For now. He didn't relish the idea of having his ass shot just when he was getting his act together and his family needed his help out of a financial bind. Keeping her talking was a good way to divert her from blowing his head off. "Just so you know, Sheriff Cantrell retired a few years back. Walter Burke is the sheriff now."
"Really? That's fascinating."
"Just thought you'd want to know who you called."
"I don't care if the Easter Bunny is sheriff as long as he brings a car to take your ass to jail where you belong."
Excerpted from His Southern Temptation by Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon Hopson. Copyright © 2013 Robin Covington. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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