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Zoe lay on her back in the center of his bed, as Ben Hood teased her womanhood with the sixteen-inch strand of multi-colored Tahitian pearls she'd borrowed from her jewelry store for the White Linen Party. He smelled of man and cologne, and coupled with the yearning in his eyes, she couldn't resist him any longer. Her nipples were like radar beams pointing right at his chest. And it seemed, under their own volition, that the hardened tips lifted her thirty-year-old body, and her arms circled his neck.
The room was bathed in candlelight, yet she could still see his triumphant smile. "I thought you could resist me?" he teased, his knees dropping to her sides, his arms circling her back as he pulled the black bra off. His left hand palmed her breast before his luscious lips covered the caramel-colored tip.
"You're too hard to resist." A low guttural moan tore from her throat as he ravaged one breast then the other. She shook with wanting. "Oh, goodness," she moaned, and he laughed deep in his chest, his hand straying down between her legs. There was this direct connection between her breasts and her essence, and she'd never met a man who knew how to make them work together like him.
"Who knew I would meet someone as fine as you at a conference?" Zoe laughed. Ben chuckled.
His hands moved over her body as if he'd known her for years, yet this was their first time. Still, the shyness she usually felt was gone. Stripped bare, he rolled onto his back pulling her on top of him, his lips never leaving her breasts. She loved the way he appreciated them, as if there was some type of life substance coming from them. She felt the tugging inside, the warmth of sexual desire filling her, making her want him to have her in any way he wanted.
Ben released her breast and looked into her eyes. She descended for a kiss, his mouth claiming hers. The word carnal came to mind. Dizzying and potent, his tongue sought hers and she met him with a passion she hadn't felt in a long time. This was what she'd been wanting for so long, and had been missing in relationships in her twenties. At thirty-five, Ben was a man. A real man. There was no escaping that fact, and the way he wanted her, the way his hands held her against his sex and his mouth claimed hers, well, she was nearly ready to come right then. She grabbed his chin, his day-long growth of beard tantalizing her palm.
"Yeah, baby? What you want?" He caught his bottom lip between his teeth and gave her a look so sexy, her heart skipped a beat. Having him ask as his hands played the guessing game between her legs with her pearls was sexy as hell. She sucked in her breath and nodded when he guessed just right. His thumb glided over the heart of her sexuality and she pushed against him.
"You're gorgeous. You know that?" he asked. His gaze roamed her as he caressed her most intimate parts.
She smiled down at him. "You're biased." She stuck out her tongue and he was up in a flash and had captured it between his lips. They were again chest to chest, sex to sex, and she had to have him.
Zoe wrapped her legs around his back and pushed, and he shook his head and murmured, "No." "Why?" she whispered, nipping his ear, backing up a little. She reached down and took him in her hands.
He muttered an expletive as he watched her and she wrinkled her nose at him, laughing. "Aren't you about to do that?" she teased.
"Woman, don't play. That's a dangerous weapon. Handle with care." Even as he taunted and teased her, his hands never left her body. His strokes were purposeful and strong. She felt wanted. Needed, even.
Carefully, she wound the pearls around his sex and rolled them gently up and down. His eyes widened. "You were telling me why I couldn't have this," she said, and kissed his manhood. His thigh muscles flexed. The stimulation from the pearls and her mouth seemed to drive him close to the edge, and his chest rose and fell in quick pants.
"You keep that up and I won't be able to please you," he said.
"Yes, you will." With each stroke and suck, he drove his hands through her hair until he couldn't take any more. He pulled her up and took the pearls from her hands. "You're dangerous with these, you know that?" She smiled, biting his chin. "You're a bad girl, Zoe."
"I want you," she told him as she touched his hardened sex again, her legs tingling. Zoe was surprised at her confession. She'd never spoken those words to another man in her life. She wondered how she'd feel in the morning, but she didn't care right now. She wanted him and she meant to have him.
Opening for him, she lifted her legs and he kissed her as he pushed inside. They both smiled. She, in surprise. He, in knowing. "Big," she whispered.
"You can handle me, baby," he said, and began to move in her.
Each stroke made up for all she'd missed.
"You're gorgeous," he whispered, again and again. Her desire soared the more they moved as one. His thrusts were powerful, his six pack of tight muscles a visual delight. But it was his eyes glazed in pleasure that drove her closer to the finish line. Watching their bodies meet in carnal bliss, the way his hands took possession of her thighs and bring about her climax made her arch, her fingers running up his arms. She wanted to hold him to her, but she didn't want to say that. The end was approaching fast and Ben seemed to know.
"Come here," he said and lifted her, their bodies still joined. He seemed to innately know that this was the only time she'd completely let go. He moved inside of her to a place no man had been before, and she cried out her climax, her body clutching his, words falling from her lips she couldn't explain or remember. A second later he pulsed inside of her, their mouths attached, their mating finally at a blissful end.
Their breath wasn't fully recovered when his phone began to ring. Neither of them moved; her head on his shoulder, his muscular arms cradling her. It rang again and stopped, then started again. "That's the signal. I have to get it."
"What signal?" Zoe asked as he lay her down on the bed, leaned over and grabbed his pants.
"The phone rang three separate times in succession. That means pick up. It's probably Rob."
"Who's Rob?" Zoe rolled onto her side, wanting Ben's attention back on her.
"My twin brother." Ben smiled and dragged a curl of her hair down to her breast. It popped back into place. Zoe nuzzled Ben's chin, half listening as he talked. She recalled now that he'd mentioned that he was a twin and Rob was older by four minutes.
"Rob? What's going on? Yeah. Where's Zach? I'm off tonight and I've got company." The sensual glow cleared from his eyes, and the finger he'd been using to run down the center of her chest was now turning on the lamplight.
"We can pick up Pickens tomorrow," Ben said.
"The warrant is still good. No, if you need me, I guess I can come. What else? I have company, Rob."
Warrant? Hadn't he said he was an investigator? Not a bounty hunter. Those were two distinctly different things.
Zoe gathered her G-string and snapped it into place, frantically searching for her bra. Skipping it, she put on the white-linen dress she'd worn to the party. It was very wrinkled, but linen was that kind of material. She stepped into it, hating she couldn't find her bra. Her nipples were chafing against the material. How could she have been so wrong? Wild passion was a terrible thing and had clouded her good sense.
She quickly snapped up all of her belongings and went around to the side of the bed so Ben could see her. "I'll call you tomorrow," she said, and he half stood, but she waved him down. "I can find my way out."
"You don't have to leave." He looked confused, and regret passed over his face.
"No. I'm gone," she told him.
Her shoes tapped against the marble floors decisively. Though not a cop, all she could remember from childhood was her mother and the nervous way she'd approached the door every time the doorbell rang when Zoe's dad had been at work. She'd been waiting for bad news and now she'd finally gotten it. Two months ago, her father had been left for dead in a hit-and-run accident in the line of duty, and because of budget constraints by the city, medical benefits he needed were being cut. Her mother was barely supporting them on her teacher's salary. No way. Investigator. Cop. It didn't matter. She would not be her mother.
Just reading Zoe McKnight's name in the e-mail made Ben Hood's thigh muscles stretch and his biceps flex in remembrance of how good their lovemaking had been.
Three months had passed since she'd been right here in his house, and he should have forgotten her by now, but he hadn't. Nat King Cole was right. She was unforgettable.
Zoe was far more beautiful than the movie stars or the women music videos touted as icons of beauty. She was an authentic woman with a soft stomach he'd enjoyed holding in his hands, shapely breasts that filled his palms, and thighs that gripped his in earnest. And that unruly mass of hair that she tried to tame with a headband or clips, and that he could never forget pulling free and letting go wild.
Her smile still lit up his mind. "I've got to go. I'll call you tomorrow." Those were her last words to him over three months ago. He'd been a one-night piece of ass, and that didn't sit well with him. How many times in his younger, stupider days had he promised to call a woman and hadn't?
Karma was a mean old bitch.
He tapped the keyboard and paged through the e-mail file, reading why she wanted to hire Hood Investigations, Inc.
Her jewelry stores, Zoe's Diamonds on Peachtree and Zoe's Diamonds at the Galleria, kept getting robbed. The amounts taken weren't large and his initial thought was that it was an inside job, but instinct told him Zoe wouldn't have pursued their company if she hadn't already considered that possibility.
Atlanta stores and gas stations had been plagued with smash-and-grab type robberies with thieves stealing ATM machines. But these robberies were different. These were smooth break-ins and they were affecting Zoe's economic future.
The stores had been fit with sensors and cameras by a reputable security company, but they'd been disabled every single time. So far, only merchandise had been taken, but Zoe was worried that the thieves were becoming more brazen and striking more often, and soon, somebody might get hurt. Her biggest concern was that she was planning a multi-million-dollar expansion project and not only did she need A-1 credit, but a low-incidence crime rating.
It's an inside job, Zoe, baby. Saying her name made him want her again in the same way he craved sweets the year he'd given them up.
Shaking images of her from his mind, Ben reviewed the remainder of the e-mail files he needed to send back to Rob, the president of Hood I.N.V., and responded about two other cases that weren't closed yet. His sister, who owned her own cleaning company, knocked on his office door.
"Come in, Mel."
"Ben, I'm about to head down to Rob's house, but I found something interesting behind your nightstand."
He swung around in his chair. "What are you doing behind my nightstand? Didn't you just have surgery on your rotator cuff six weeks ago?"
Mel, the baby of the family of five, was a hard worker, supporting her hearing-impaired daughter and her six-year-old all on her own. "I wasn't lifting anything." Her compact size fooled many people, but not her brothers and sister who knew of her black belts in Aikido and Hapkido. "I found these fancy pearls when I was dusting, and I couldn't help but think you might want to give them back, or I can take them home and consider them an early bonus."
Ben was out of his chair in a slow movement. The fun he'd had with Zoe and these pearls brought back fond memories. "You may clean behind my nightstand anytime. Thanks, sis. Your bonus is in the mail."
She laughed as he popped a kiss onto her forehead. "Tahitian pearls. Nice."
Ben relieved Mel of the fancy baubles. "How do you know they're Tahitian?"
"I have a deep appreciation for fine jewelry." She touched his chin. "That look says that you should return them. She must be pretty special."
"Very much so." Ben walked his sister to her car. The sun warmed his skin and he had the feeling the day was only going to get better.
"Approach her as if she's a case. Carefully and with a lot of passion. You'll get her."
Ben saw his sister off and studied the pearls before deciding what he wanted. He'd return the pearls. The same way he'd gotten them. He'd seduce Zoe, just like he had three months ago. And he'd start by finding out who was trying to ruin her business.
"Why not hire a twenty-four-hour guard service, Zoe? I don't think you need to get some expensive investigation company to charge a whole lot of money to come in and solve a petty theft problem."
At the store, Zoe locked the safe that held loose diamonds, and other precious stones. She turned around and looked at her older sister, Faye, who'd been hovering for the better part of an hour. "I don't want guards sitting in my stores. None of the other stores have them, and I'm afraid they'll turn off customers."
She straightened the clingy fuchsia dress over her curves fuchsia being the signature color of Zoe's Diamonds on Peachtreeand checked her makeup one last time.
The past two months had been tough with her stores having been robbed three times. She couldn't believe she'd been targeted after all the security measures she'd taken.